Unleashing digital power
en.hangzhou.com.cn   2023-02-21 12:49   Source: China Daily Global

Unlock the potential of digitally empowered public services to increase efficiency in urban lives

Over the past few years, digital technologies including big data, block chain and artificial intelligence have developed rapidly in China. With ever-expanding application scenarios, some of them have been deeply integrated into urban life and smart city construction, playing a significant role in supporting the high-quality development of urban public services and expediting the transformation and upgrading of urban public services.

According to the report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, China "will improve urban planning, construction, and governance and move faster to change the development models of super-large and mega cities".Currently, digital technologies are transforming urban public service models from three aspects — capacity, efficiency and fairness.

First of all, digital technologies have expanded the coverage of urban public services. Previously unachievable services can now be achieved through the application of digital technologies — this is a "zero to one "change. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, cities have conducted epidemiological surveys and management by using big data technology, changing the previous offline epidemiological survey model. Second, digital technologies have greatly enhanced the efficiency and quality of urban public services. For instance, hardware facilities such as urban public service infrastructure has been greatly improved, and the likes of artificial intelligence and big data technologies have greatly enhanced the efficiency of public services — this is a "one to N" change. Third, the wide application of digital technologies has promoted fairness in public service accessibility. This has demonstrated the principle of fairness in urban governance and guaranteed every citizen's right to equal participation in public services. For instance, the "Internet Plus" strategy has reduced disparities, thus ensuring better implementation of people-centered and common prosperity development philosophy for people from all walks of life — this is a "many to equal "change.

By transforming urban public services, digital technologies have greatly improved the quality of people's life and become a critical driving force for promoting the development of urban public services. Over the past few years, digital technologies have empowered urban public services, with trials and explorations sprouting across the nation.

To start with, digital technologies are transforming urban public employment services. The platform economy and sharing economy, in particular online job hunting, live job-employee matching, and online office in the COVID-19 pandemic, have profoundly changed the way people work, therefore bringing earthshaking changes to public services for employment. For instance, by breaking down barriers between the supply and demand sides, digital technologies have substantially improved the quality of matchmaking between supply and demand in the job market. Big data and artificial intelligence technologies can more accurately match employers with suitable employees. Public employment service agencies can provide customized, personalized services to job seekers through their age, gender and job-searching requirements, etc. In Shenzhen, an online public employment service platform has been set up to promote citywide sharing of job information, greatly enhancing the efficiency of public services.

Second, digital technologies are transforming educational public services. The sound development of "Internet plus education" has expanded the coverage of quality educational resources, making equal and fair education accessible to all and creating favorable conditions for solving problems emanating from the imbalance of educational resources, such as difficulties in choosing a school and skyrocketing house prices in elite school districts.

Technological innovations are promoting equality of educational opportunities. Using information technologies, students are able to connect to and use the huge information resources available on the internet, removing the barriers to learning. During the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning platforms and smartphone apps have played an active role in enabling learning for students. In 2021, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission issued the implementation plan for the digital transformation of education in Shanghai (2021-23). The implementation plan takes digital transformation as a major driving force for and a basic feature of promoting the modernization of education. It proposes to strive to build Shanghai into a national benchmark for the digital transformation of education by 2023.

Third, digital technologies are transforming public health services in cities. New materials, new biomedicine, new medical devices and the "Internet plus healthcare "strategy have changed the models of public health services; and big data, detection technologies and vaccine R&D have become important means of coping with public health crises.

Digital technologies have to a certain extent lowered medical costs, enabling more lower-income households to afford new medicines and medical services. Beijing's Chaoyang district, for instance, has established a regional digital public health system based on residents' electronic medical record and supported by the transmission of a private health network. In this way, the allocation of medical and health resources is optimized and public health services tailored to individual citizens.

Fourth, digital technologies are transforming public elderly care services in cities.

Big data, internet and satellite communications technologies have enhanced the capability of cities to cope with population aging and boosted the development of elderly care industries — intelligence nursing homes and elderly care robots have been put into use to meet the growing needs of older adults. Over the past few years, digital technologies have been applied in a wide range of elderly care public service scenarios, providing full-spectrum, convenient and smart elderly care services and greatly improving older adults' well-being and quality of life. For instance, a smart meal assistance program has been launched in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, to provide meal assistance to senior citizens by developing a smartphone app, and providing more convenient mobile payment options in community canteens catering exclusively to older people.

Alongside exponential growth in digital technologies, urban digital public services also face a number of new challenges and problems. For instance, digital technology monopolies are not conducive to the wide application of technologies and cost reduction; digital public services face the risks of data insecurity, data abuse and data breach; uneven development of digital technologies further widens the "digital divide"; level of integration for urban digital resources is yet to improve; and public service providers are yet to strengthen their digital capacity-building.

Therefore, China should further optimize its organizational leadership system for urban digital management, enhance the digital governance capacity of cities by stepping up efforts in digital service capacity and standardization construction, cultivate multi-center bodies for urban public services to promote the integrated development of digital products and services, improve the planning for digitally empowered public services and assess the effect of empowerment on a regular basis, and make great efforts to narrow the "digital divide "and enhance the capability of digital public services for special groups.

By implementing the above-mentioned measures, China could further enhance the efficiency of urban public services, make digital public services more inclusive and accessible to all, and provide stronger support for urban livelihoods such as employment, education, healthcare and elderly care.

Author: By QIAN CHENG  Editor: Ye Lijiao