China in top gear

Olympics bring the country's technology efforts to a crescendo

During the late 1980s and early 1990s I often travelled in China and saw the country as it was before the economic takeoff. Now the pace of change is incredible, especially in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.

There has been much economic soul-searching about China for almost a decade. At first industry pundits noted the outsourcing of low-end, low-cost, and low-complexity jobs. Next we noted the significant investments being made in education in India and China. It wasn't long before we noticed the migration of service jobs, not just call centres. Next came software design, Web sites, and then the engineering of sophisticated technology offerings.

ICT vendors are now increasingly looking to both India and China as emerging end-markets, although China generally receives more attention than India in this respect. China also wants Indian IT companies to invest in China and to access global markets from China using local talent in return for access to the local market.

China's Internet users also represent an attractive target demographic. It is a large audience of urban, young, and well-educated people who spend a lot of time online and spread the word of products and services quickly.

While there are many factors that will influence the development of the Chinese ICT landscape, two will dominate, according to Gartner. The first is the level of government involvement in the economy and the second is China's ability to be an ICT innovator.

A few years ago it seemed far-fetched to believe China would move into the ICT arena. Its telecommunications infrastructure was seriously lacking and the Tiananmen Square incident created grave doubts that the Chinese Government could nurture an open, risk-free political environment for multinational corporations. Now many international corporations have established operations with a local resource pool to service clients not only in China but also in the Asia/Pacific region. China's banking, financial services, and insurance sectors are all going through enormous changes. There is a big opportunity for Australian players in these markets.

Then along come the Olympic Games in 2008 and the World's Fair in 2010. Fibre-optic networks have been expanded, mobile communications network capacities increased. A digital network capable of ITDTV transmission has been established for all Olympic venues. GPS will be used in transportation control.

Technology rehearsals for the games have been completed; technological staff, systems, and procedures are in place. As the worldwide IT partner for the Games, Altos Origin is designing, building and operating the vast IT systems that relay the results and athlete information to spectators and media around the world. This technical infrastructure will link more than 60 venues across China using more than 900 servers, 7000 PCs, and 1000 network and security devices. Altos Origin is working with local technology partners such as Lenovo, China Netcom, and China Mobile to implement and support the games' IT infrastructure. Lenovo is also an official sponsor of the games.

Len Rust is editor of The Rust Report

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