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Jul 26, 2019 @ 08:07 by Dr. Mei Wang

A paradox: Digital Innovation vs Bureaucracy

Digital innovation has not yet truly arrived in the governmental context. Many opportunities remain untapped. Can government be disrupted by digital advancement? How to balance between the risk of control as a state and the expectation of good public service from citizens?

Bureaucracy is a nerve-racking affair in almost every country. We all know the long waiting periods, the back and forth correspondence and the difficult path to find information or the right contact person. In Germany - where I live - governmental institutions are famous for strong accuracy in bureaucracy, making any interaction between citizens and institutions heavy. Within the years living in this country, I spent a considerable amount of time in basic interactions or in running from institution A to B. I was so happy early this year when my local city authority started providing online kid benefit application process. On a general level, I feel that digital innovation has not yet truly arrived in the governmental context. There is a slow development towards change, but by far many opportunities remain untapped. Governments can strengthen themselves through digital and innovative developments and hence drive economic growth. Governmental institutions who are open towards digital developments will have a higher chance to enhance efficiency and optimize governmental functions and will provide more free space and policies to accelerate business/social digital innovations. In this article I want to provide 5 examples on how China government has implemented digital solutions in their daily work and its impact on the society. I want to make it clear that on the one hand I fully understand the challenges and the risks of China’s “Social Credit” system through the lens of Western ideology. On another hand I am also astonished by the depth of digital embracement and the effort from the Chinese local authorities. The key argument is, that it is possible to use digital technology to improve the quality of people life and even in the public sector. The examples are from Zhejiang region where Alibaba is based and Guangdong region where Tencent is seated:

The "At most one visit" administrative reform (Zhejiang Province, powered by Alibaba)

The reform makes a perfect example of innovative e-government services. In 2017 the government of the Zhejiang province has drawn on cloud computing technology and Big Data to create a combined service platform. Instead of sticking to different bureaucratic procedures and requirements for each governmental institution, the platform combines multiple administration services of over 100 governmental institutions within one app. The reform is leveraging the vast existing subscriber base of the online payment platform, Alipay, to facilitate payments. Alipay, owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group

Holding Ltd., is the largest mobile payment platform in the world, with over 400 million users and a nearly 50% market share in China. 

Find more about the reform here.

Hangzhou's City Brain (Zhejiang Province, powered by Alibaba)

Hangzhou's city brain is able to tackle the general problem of traffic in big cities. Hangzhou, the capital of the Zhejiang province was once rated fifth among China's most congested cities. Using Alibaba's City Brain an AI application that gathers traffic information, the city was able to drop down to rank 57 on the list. The city brain platform gathers its traffic information from intersection cameras and GPS data of cars and buses locations. The gathered information is then analyzed in real time. The application is able to coordinate more than 1,000 road signals around the city. The emerging technology optimizes traffic and urban governance. 

Get deeper insights in the AI technology behind the "City Brain" and find out more about its advantages for urban cities here.

But not only Alibaba sets significant milestones in digital government innovation. In view of the problems of repeated filling in forms, repeated submission of materials and low business handling rate, Tencent Cloud has established a unified government service platform at the provincial and even national levels, so that data all things can be handled online. Tencent Cloud is a secure, reliable and high-performance cloud compute service provided by Tencent - the largest Internet company in China, Shenzhen. Below please find three examples:

Yue ShengShi Mini program (粤省事, POWERED BY TENCENT )

It is a regional public service wechat mini program. In the past year, the real-name users of “Yue Shengshi” have exceeded 12 million, totaling 636 services and 59 electronic licenses. With Wechat mini program as the entry point, the advantage of not downloading additional App solved the pain point of the large number of users but low frequency of use of government services. This form of “social software + government services” arouses the many people’s interest in various countries. 

More information click here ( in Chinese)

China Government Service Platform Mini program(中国政务服务平台, POWERED BY TENCENT)

Just a few days ago, "China Government Service Platform" pilot program went online. The scope of coverage is further expanded from provincial platforms to the national level. It can provide 200 services such as inquiry, payment and application for certificates nationwide. This is also the best example of Tencent's interpretation of the concept of "big platform, small front-end". 

More information click here ( in Chinese)

AI Face Detection Technology to find missing kids

Children trafficking is an unsolved social issue in China. In the past, it is rather difficult for police to find missing children specially if the children have been missed for years. Simple the children look different from the moment they lost. In order to solve this social problem, Youku Lab under Tencent has successfully developed the facial recognition technology. It can detect gender and age, which gives police valuable opportunity to find the missing children. Leveraging AI technology, Tencent program has found more than 600 hundred missing people and Youtu’s AI face detection technology has helped the Fujian police department find more than 1,000 people to date. 

For more detailed information click here.

I hope you have a better understanding about how digital solutions could be successfully implemented into the public service sector now. I wish you a healthy and successful rest of the week!

About us

Dr. Mei Wang is the Global Program Lead – China Bridge at Accenture Ventures and the China Digital Innovation Lead at dgroup. 

China Bridge is a new global program implemented and promoted by Accenture Ventures. With presence in 15 global regions and over 200 partnerships with top startups, Accenture Ventures is identifying the next wave of technology partners to deliver the most innovative solutions to Accenture’s Global 2000 clients. 

As an innovation and exchange program China Bridge helps clients of Accenture to unlock growth opportunities by bringing them together with best-in-class Chinese digital players and to co-create responsible technologies for the future. 

Every month our point of view provides insights into the latest digital and technical innovation trends from China. Do you have any ideas and suggestions? Please contact me or my colleague Alexander Voss (alexander.voss@accenture.com).

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