Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion has made ma­jor im­pact

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS -

What do you feel has been China’s big­gest achieve­ment dur­ing the past five years and what is its most no­table change?

It has to be the way that China has em­braced a dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion like few other na­tions in the world. The fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, which ev­ery­one talked about, has ar­rived. This has come about through cloud com­put­ing, edge de­vices and big data.

It is chang­ing how peo­ple in China live and work, and it is in­ject­ing new en­ergy into all walks of life. It is be­gin­ning to trans­form busi­nesses, help­ing them em­power their em­ploy­ees, en­gage cus­tomers, op­ti­mize op­er­a­tions and (change) both the prod­ucts they cre­ate and sell. In fact, their busi­ness mod­els.

This did not oc­cur by ac­ci­dent. China set a clear course with poli­cies to sup­port the trans­for­ma­tion of the econ­omy from one fu­eled by man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­vest­ment to one driven by tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion. Those de­ci­sions are be­gin­ning to bear fruit.

As a For­tune 500 com­pany, which sec­tors do you think of­fer the most op­por­tu­ni­ties for de­vel­op­ment?

China is one of the most dy­namic places for eco­nomic growth and in­no­va­tion in the world. The en­tire coun­try is go­ing through a dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, driven by tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion. So, it is no sur­prise that dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion tops the agenda among busi­ness lead­ers across the coun­try.

In meet­ings with busi­nesses and govern­ment lead­ers, it is clear that or­ga­ni­za­tions are ac­cel­er­at­ing their dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion jour­neys. They are ask­ing us how they can (turn) their data into growth as­sets and how they can change their busi­ness mod­els to align with new mar­ket re­al­i­ties.

In a sur­vey Microsoft com­mis­sioned of about 1,500 busi­ness de­ci­sion-mak­ers across the Asia-Pa­cific, we found that dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion was al­ready a pri­or­ity for most or­ga­ni­za­tions in China. Up to 87 per­cent agree the key to fu­ture growth was to think and act like a dig­i­tal busi­ness.

What are your ex­pec­ta­tions for the up­com­ing 19th Na­tional Con­gress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China and what key is­sues will you be watch­ing for?

At Microsoft, we are nat­u­rally very in­ter­ested in the poli­cies af­fect­ing the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try. Will there be poli­cies, di­rec­tives and guide­lines like “In­ter­net Plus” and the Next Gen­er­a­tion Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence De­vel­op­ment Plan? If so, what sort of di­rec­tion will they pro­vide for the road ahead?

Microsoft is re­ally a part­ner-cen­tric com­pany — more than 1,000 Chi­nese com­pa­nies are build­ing so­lu­tions and ser­vices based on our cloud plat­form to­day — and the for­tunes and fu­ture di­rec­tion of th­ese tech­nol­ogy en­ter­prises will be af­fected by govern­ment poli­cies.

So, we hope to con­tinue to learn about and align with th­ese poli­cies in ways which lead to suc­cess for ev­ery­one, as we have done for many years.

What fac­tors will boost China’s growth this year and in 2018, and what are the chal­lenges fac­ing China’s econ­omy?

Trans­form­ing one of the largest economies in the world is cer­tainly a chal­lenge. But a suc­cess­ful re­sponse will pro­vide enor­mous op­por­tu­ni­ties for China and for the world. In­no­va­tion-driven tech­nolo­gies and ap­pli­ca­tions are dis­rupt­ing tra­di­tional in­dus­tries such as never be­fore.

Big data, cloud ser­vices, IoT (the in­ter­net of things), and AI (ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence) will breathe new life into ev­ery in­dus­try and sec­tor to help trans­form the econ­omy.

Microsoft has been (help­ing to) trans­form China for more than 20 years and will re­main a part­ner with the coun­try through the years ahead. We will pro­vide tech­nolo­gies, plat­forms, ser­vices and sup­port to fuel in­no­va­tion and en­trepreneur­ship.

What op­por­tu­ni­ties will the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive throw up for China and the rest of the world?

Chi­nese com­pa­nies are ahead of the curve in dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion and they will help drive the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment, as well as the de­vel­op­ment of part­ners along the Belt and Road routes. The part­ner­ships in tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, which will be built between China and other economies, will pro­vide a good foun­da­tion for mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion.

Mo­bike (Tech­nol­ogy Co Ltd) is a good ex­am­ple of what we can see hap­pen­ing as Chi­nese com­pa­nies grow. They are us­ing in­tel­li­gent cloud tech­nolo­gies to rein­vent trans­porta­tion in­side the coun­try and now around the world with smart bike shar­ing.

They use Microsoft’s Azure in­tel­li­gent cloud plat­form, IoT and pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics to un­der­stand where their bikes are, and where they are needed. This in­no­va­tive so­lu­tion helps solve problems in con­gested cities and can help build the rep­u­ta­tion of Chi­nese com­pa­nies more broadly.

“CHI­NESE COM­PA­NIES ARE AHEAD OF THE CURVE IN DIG­I­TAL TRANS­FOR­MA­TION AND THEY WILL HELP DRIVE THE COUN­TRY’S DE­VEL­OP­MENT, AS WELL AS THE DE­VEL­OP­MENT OF PART­NERS ALONG THE BELT AND ROAD ROUTES.”

What are the most in­no­va­tive trends or prod­ucts in China?

AI (ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence) is the most in­no­va­tive thing hap­ping in China to­day. Be­cause AI is still in its in­fancy, it is just start­ing to be taken se­ri­ously by com­pa­nies around the world. China, how­ever, has been ahead of the game in AI re­search in some re­spects. In ap­ply­ing AI, the coun­try has an ad­van­tage.

Nat­u­rally, Microsoft has been work­ing on ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence for many years. We con­duct a great deal of “break­through” AI re­search in China, where we have our largest re­search and de­vel­op­ment op­er­a­tion out­side the US.

Alain Crozier,

CEO of Microsoft Greater China

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