A child watches a livestreamer selling local products in Beichuan County, southwest China's Sichuan Province, Nov. 14, 2020. (Xinhua/Jiang Hongjing)

Narrowed digital gap contributes to China’s poverty alleviation: report

The Internet has played a remarkable role in China’s poverty alleviation campaign, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with Internet access extended to more rural areas, a recent report says.

The China Internet Development Report 2020, which was released Monday at the ongoing World Internet Conference — Internet Development Forum, shows that the regional digital divide in China further narrowed over the past year, with the Internet penetration rate in urban areas reaching 76.4 percent while that in rural areas surging to 52.3 percent by June 2020.

The change is attributed to China’s unremitted efforts in improving Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructures in rural areas and making full use of the Internet to help lift more people out of poverty, the report says.

Many e-commerce platforms have actively engaged in a poverty-alleviation campaign to help promote agricultural products through livestreaming, during which many farmers have become online celebrities, according to Xia Xueping, head of the Chinese Academy of Cyberspace Studies.

A batch of Internet companies and social organizations have provided rural residents with distance learning, e-commerce training, among other services, empowering the development of those areas, Xia added.

The report also shows that China has reached its goal of Internet coverage in poor areas ahead of schedule, with 98 percent of poor villages already gaining Internet access.

Meanwhile, online retail sales in rural areas surged to 1.7 trillion yuan (about 258 billion U.S. dollars) in 2019 from 180 billion yuan in 2014.

From a global perspective, however, the digital divide between countries and regions is still enormous, with developing countries lagging far behind developed countries in fields such as infrastructure, digital-payments, skill-learning and legislation, said the World Internet Development Report 2020, which was also released during the conference.

The report pointed out that this imbalance may further expand unless people’s digital skills are improved and prices of information equipment and services are lowered in those countries and regions.

The two-day World Internet Conference — Internet Development Forum opened Monday in Wuzhen, east China’s Zhejiang Province, highlighting digital empowerment for a better future.