SEM Insights

Home » News » SEM Insights » Content

LIN Zhijie: Bridging the urban-rural digital divide


Originally published in Economic Daily

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), in collaboration with four other government bodies, released "Key Points of Digital Rural Development in 2023." The document outlines China's goal of achieving significant progress in digital rural development by 2023. The aim is to use digital technology to empower rural industries, enhance rural construction, and improve rural governance. These efforts will modernize agricultural and rural areas, and foster shared prosperity among rural communities and farmers. Digital rural development is a crucial aspect of ongoing rural revitalization.

Data, as a new factor of production, holds an important strategic position in the digital economy. Within the context of developing the digital economy and empowering rural revitalization, "data" plays a fundamental and crucial role. The digital economy is currently undergoing rapid development and serves as a new engine for high-quality economic growth in China. It also acts as an "accelerator" for new scenarios, models, and business formats. To effectively implement the rural revitalization strategy, we must adopt a problem-oriented approach, seize opportunities tightly, and leverage the digital economy to provide robust technological support. This approach will inject new developmental vitality into rural infrastructure and drive the advancement of digital countryside initiatives. The "Key Points" document emphasizes the need for steady improvements in the level of digitalization in rural governance, the deepening of inclusive digital services in rural areas, the enhancement of farmers' digital literacy and skills, and the increased effectiveness of digital countryside pilot projects by the end of 2023.

However, there remains a "digital divide" between urban and rural areas in China. Firstly, this divide is evident in the discrepancies in digital infrastructure between the two. Secondly, there exists a significant disparity in the accumulation of data resources between urban and rural areas. Furthermore, rural residents generally have lower levels of digital literacy, resulting in a limited understanding of the crucial role played by science and technology. There is a need for substantial improvement in actively involving elderly individuals living alone and left-behind children in the digital countryside initiatives. The presence of numerous households with limited access to information technology in rural areas also hampers the high-quality development of the digital economy.

To tackle this issue, it is crucial to actively promote the development of the digital countryside. This entails expediting the implementation of digital infrastructure such as 5G, Internet connectivity, and cloud computing in rural areas, while empowering these regions with digital technology. It is essential to expand the reach of initiatives such as "Internet Plus" to rural areas, thereby creating more comprehensive digital application scenarios such as smart agriculture and smart tourism. By doing so, we can enhance the quality and availability of information services in rural areas.

Simultaneously, it is crucial to expedite the collection of data resources related to agriculture, rural areas, and rural residents. This involves establishing big data platforms and trading platforms designed for these domains. Only by fully harnessing the value of data from agriculture, rural areas, and rural residents can we facilitate the seamless flow and integration of data between urban and rural sectors. This, in turn, will encourage greater resource allocation from urban areas to rural areas and contribute to the development of the rural digital economy. By increasing investments in rural digital infrastructure and data resources, we can continuously diminish the existing "digital divide" between urban and rural areas while fostering rural revitalization.

It is important to acknowledge that the current scarcity of digital talent in rural areas acts as a bottleneck that hinders the development of the rural digital economy. Therefore, it is necessary to expedite the construction and enhancement of the rural digital talent ecosystem. This involves establishing vocational training programs for digital technologies, supporting collaborations between universities and reputable companies to establish internship opportunities and training centers, developing courses and educational resources for digital skills, and nurturing a large pool of skilled professionals capable or managing innovative technologies that seamlessly integrate the local digital economy and modern agriculture.

We should also accelerate the implementation and improvement of support policies for targeting digital talent. This includes attracting talented individuals to return to their hometowns and start businesses, as well as encouraging college students to become village officials and actively engage in grassroots-level through rewards, subsidies, promotions, and other incentives.

Introduction to the Professor

LIN Zhijie is a tenured associate professor at Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management (Tsinghua SEM). He also holds positions as Executive Director of the China Information Economics Society (CIES), Director of the CIES Youth Work Committee, and Deputy Director of the CIES Platform Management Professional Committee. Professor has presided over the National Natural Science Foundation (The Excellent Young Scientists Fund) project and was selected for the WU Jiapei Grants Program, established by the China Information Economics Society. With a doctoral degree in Information Systems from the National University of Singapore, his research interests encompass economics of systems, the sharing economy, e-commerce, social media, and more. He has published more than 30 papers, with 12 in UTD/FT journals with more than 2,400 citations, according to Google Scholar. His research work has appeared in prestigious publications such as MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Journal of Marketing, Production and Operations Management, among others. Throughout his career, LIN has received numerous awards, including the Academic Newcomer Award and Excellent Master's Thesis Instructor awards from Tsinghua University. Additionally, he has earned accolades such as Exemplary Individual, Advanced Award for Scientific Research, and Excellent Head Teacher awards at Tsinghua SEM. He has been recognized with prestigious awards such as the China Information Economics Youth Innovation Award, Outstanding Achievement Award granted by the China Information Economics Society, and System Science and System Engineering Science and Technology Award (Youth Science and Technology Award) bestowed by the Systems Engineering Society of China.