Government officials and industry executives pledged yesterday to further promote development of e-governance and e-business in China, which experienced rapid growth during the period of the SARS outbreak.
Acknowledging the unexpected role that Internet-based facilities and telecommunications played in the fight against SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), an official of the State Council Informatization Office said China will spare no effort to enhance the application of information technology.
Qu Weizhi, vice-director of the office, said e-governance in SARS-stricken regions in China has facilitated the gathering and dissemination of information pertaining to the virus, and e-commerce has enabled millions of people that were too scared to go shopping in supermarkets to buy supplies without leaving their residences.
For example, in April when SARS was particularly prevalent, US$300 million worth of transactions were conducted online at the 93rd Chinese Export Commodities Fair in Guangdong.
"Informatization has become an indispensable and effective means for the government to improve its capacity of dealing with emergencies," Qu told a seminar organized by the Boao Forum For Asia, to review the lessons for the IT sector in the aftermath of SARS in Beijing.
But many Chinese local governments and businesses still lack the necessary infrastructure and expertise to jump on the bandwagon of informatization, she said.
To remedy this situation, the vice-director said her office will see to it that an e-governance platform at the central level will be linked with those of local governments, to ensure the accurate and timely flow of information.
In addition, the government will help more enterprises get Internet-enabled, and speed up expansion of e-business by working out a chain of accessory policies pertaining to online payments, credit, safety certifications and logistics, she said.
Long Yongtu, general secretary of the Boao Forum, said that as shown during the SARS epidemic period, the Web-based economy is bound to have a promising future in China and beyond.
Commenting on the withdrawal of some foreign businesses from China's IT sector for fear of "too much concentrated investment" there, Vice-Minister of Information Industry Xi Guohua said there is still huge potential to be tapped in the country's IT industry.
The country's policies on foreign investment in the IT sector have been consistent and will not be changed because of the impact of SARS, he said.
Jack Ma, executive officer of Alibaba.com, a leading e-business company in China, warned enterprises rushing to develop e-business following its boom during the SARS period that they should be aware of possible letdowns in the business.
During the post-SARS era, e-businesses should strengthen the building of enterprise credit, he said.
(China Daily July 4, 2003)