Above photo: The Macao Government Spokesperson Office holds a press conference on the development of a smart city/ Credit: Macao Government Spokesperson Office
The Government of Macau signed an agreement with the Alibaba Group on August 4 to further develop the special administrative region (SAR) as a smart city. Under the "Framework Agreement of Strategic Cooperation on Smart City Development", the Government will leverage Alibaba's big data processing capabilities to enhance the quality of the city's public services.
The agreement was signed by the Chief-of-Office of the Chief Executive's Office, Ms O Lam, and the President of Alibaba Cloud, Mr. Hu Xiaoming.
Ms. O Lam said that the cooperation project consists of two phases. The first phase, which will run until June 2019, will comprise the construction of a cloud computing data centre in Macao, as well as data mapping information managed by the Government. During this phase, the parties would gradually launch projects using a range of big data enabled AI applications, in order to accelerate Macao's development in a number of areas.
This includes the development of an integrated system for public services; enhancement of tourism services by applying information technologies to turn Macao into a smart tourism city; building a smart transportation network; and launching certificate programmes to train more professionals in business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce and Alibaba Cloud information technology.
Ms. O said that the Government is expecting the first batch of projects to produce preliminary results by mid-2018.
The second phase of the framework agreement covers the period from July 2019 to June 2021. In addition to the optimisation of information technology infrastructure across Macao, the parties would also embark on projects related to environmental protection and customs clearance procedures, and develop forecasting models for Macao's economy.
This agreement is in line with the policy objectives set out by the Government in the city's first Five-Year Development Plan, as well as in the Policy Addresses for the last two years, regarding the development of information technology, striving to develop Macao as a smart city.
Ms. O said that building Macao as a smart city is part of a broader Government strategy to boost socio-economic development and social well-being in Macao. This is reflected in continued efforts on part of the Government in the form of a number of short, mid and long-term policies, pressing ahead with the construction of infrastructure to support smart-city innovation and expediting the development of e-Government initiatives.
The press release states that the Government decided to cooperate with Alibaba Cloud after conducting comprehensive research and assessing the experience in this area of other developed cities. Alibaba Cloud – a unit of Alibaba Group – is the largest provider of cloud computing services in China. The company's cloud platform is highly compatible with different systems, meaning that the Government would not need to change its existing systems. Services provided by Alibaba Cloud are expected to fully satisfy the development needs of Macao as a smart city.
The three Chinese Internet giants, Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu have been competing to participate in government smart city initiatives, as local governments seek to leverage their already massively popular platforms for delivery of government services, going beyond just dissemination of information. These companies are also helping governments build the enabling infrastructure for smart cities through their artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing capabilities.
In December 2016, Ant Financial, Alibaba Group Holding's Fintech arm, announced that it had teamed up with 352 cities in 25 provinces to facilitate government-backed smart city projects. Ant Financial aims to offer cities a one-stop solution, including credit system construction and mobile public services. In the same month, Baidu signed a deal with Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province, to move forward on local smart city projects and the previous month, Tencent partnered with the city of Jiaxing in Zhejiang to achieve similar goals.