Briefing: China launches first satellite aimed at broadening internet access

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China launches first satellite in bid to create global communications network and broaden net access – SCMP

What happened: China aims to bridge the digital divide following the launch of an experimental satellite in December, hoping to connect 600 million rural Chinese citizens who currently don’t have access to the internet. Dubbed the Hongyun Project, the initiative will include the launch of four additional satellites by 2020 to form a constellation. It is expected to become operational by 2022.

Why it’s important: Connecting China’s rural communities is an essential milestone in boosting the country’s digital economy and bringing some of the conveniences of city living to people in the countryside. Increased connectivity in underdeveloped areas of the country is a crucial step in expanding the country’s e-commerce sector and boosting domestic consumption. It could also give rural populations the opportunity to access online educational resources as China seeks to move to a high-value economy as part of its Made in China 2025 initiative.