With mandates from China’s central government to push the digitization of public services in the country, Zhejiang province’s Hangzhou is at the forefront of this effort.

Yuan Jiayun, deputy secretary of the Communist Party in Zhejiang province, said that digitization is driving innovation in the city, but also in e-governance. Speaking at Alibaba’s  The Computing Conference held in Hangzhou’s Yunqi Town today (September 19), he said that the local government would continue integrating the internet into public services.

The province is already highly digital. According to Yuan, 39% of Zhejiang’s GDP is generated by the digital economy, adding that it has worked its way up to becoming an innovation powerhouse.

Hangzhou’s City Brain has formed a large part of the city’s digitization. The system, which was previously limited to one district of the city, is now in use across the metropole. The system has over 110 autonomous alert capabilities and 1300 traffic signals that are controlled by AI, according to Jing Zhi, deputy chief of the Zhejiang Provincial Public Security Department. It can monitor both moving and stationary vehicles.  Also, an interactive system that links the City Brain and residents has been built.

But China’s push towards digitization isn’t new. The country hopes to spearhead the use of emerging technologies in the public sector. In 2016, blockchain was included in its 13th Five-Year Plan. The goverment—both national and local—have made this a priority experimenting with projects that incorporate social insurance with blockchain, as well as attempting to harness the technology for digital identities.

Attempts are also being made to create digital IDs, travel documents, and health cards, while medical appointments can be made on Alipay and medical prescriptions are being put on the blockchain.

Also speaking at the event, president of Alibaba Group Simon Hu noted that while 20 years ago Hangzhou was known for commerce and its merchants, it is now represented by programmers. He said that digitization in the city is not only changing the lives of everyday citizens but small business owners as well.

Last year, the city introduced the world’s first internet court. Its main task is to handle the rising number of online disputes, including copyrights, purchases, defamation, contracts, and loans, but it also accepts filings electronically and tries cases via live stream

The country has also been bringing its judiciary online more broadly. In April, Alibaba inked a deal with Jiangsu Xinshiyun Technology to service up to 10,00 courts. The company is leveraging its AI technology to transcribe audio and video recordings, broadcast live proceedings, and analyze cases.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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