New tech infrastructure will help economies recover after COVID-19

technologies

(David Levêque, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Lei Xu, CEO, JD Retail


  • New internet infrastructure was critical in supporting retail supply chains during quarantine.
  • Smart supply chain and smart logistics will become indispensable to a functioning economy in the future.
  • Companies can seize the opportunity offered by new infrastructure by being flexible and open-minded.

Accelerating the development of the “new infrastructure” – including the deployment of 5G networks and data centres – has become a top priority for China’s central government. Industry experts and academics have now shifted focus accordingly, and it is clearly the time to move in-step with this overall development focus.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the new infrastructure has played a critical role in China’s overall economy. Retail platforms based on a solid supply chain ensure that the supply of products accurately matches people’s needs. Dependable and fast delivery helps guarantee the stability of tens of millions of families.

Offline retail stores are exploring online sales opportunities, which accelerates the recovery in production and orders. Meanwhile, online medical advice and online pharmacies provide convenient online healthcare services, addressing medical resource shortages. The general public realize that economic and social operations have not shut down despite their increased isolation. An important factor for this is simply enabling support of the new infrastructure: technologies including 5G networks, data centres, artificial intelligence, industrial internet, the Internet of Things, and so on.

In line with the development of this new infrastructure, at JD.com we are upgrading our core areas of expertise – including smart supply chain and smart logistics –based on technology such as the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence. These also work together to ensure the continued progress and stability of the economy and society during COVID-19.

During Chinese New Year, this new infrastructure became very real in the hearts and minds of people from across China. Under quarantine, they experienced the efficiency of delivery of medical materials, logistics, and distribution, as well as the guaranteed supply of fresh food and availability of products, due to our smart supply and smart logistics.

Now people are able to get back to work, this infrastructure ensures economic resilience and lessens the impact of the pandemic. Smart supply chain and smart logistics – like hydro-power and coal in the past – will become just as indispensable to a functioning economy in the future.

China as a whole is recovering, but Hubei and workforce productivity are still facing challenges.

The quality of a company’s supply chain is increasingly relevant around the world. It’s a lynchpin for co-operation and development across a range of industries and enterprises. Whether it’s in the midst of a crisis, such as COVID-19, or during everyday life, upgrading China’s economy to be more focused on smart manufacturing and smart services is inextricably linked to supply chain and smart logistics.

If we can significantly reduce the cost of social logistics through smart supply chain and smart logistics, overall economic and social development will be much more efficient and greatly improved. In the process of accelerating the development of new infrastructure, actively developing smart logistics and an intelligent supply chain will be critical.

The new infrastructure is also applicable to consumption, new models of production in a variety of industries, and even rapid economic development. This is the smart and digital foundation of high quality economic development, which gives rise to new models, new business types and new services. It opens up a broad space for new manufacturing, new services and new consumption.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

Building a new type of infrastructure acts as a seed project for China’s future economy. It will act as a driver of economic momentum, which will both elevate companies and help them cope with challenges related to transformation and upgrading. At the same time, we need to recognize that there are no shortcuts to the new infrastructure. It can be achieved only through perseverance and endurance.

The impact of COVID-19 on China’s economy is temporary, and the fundamentals of stable and long-term improvement will remain unchanged. The opportunity that the new infrastructure affords can only be secured by adopting a flexible and open-minded approach. But, those who do so will enjoy the dividends for themselves and all of society.

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