• HEC Data Minds

Landscapes of hills, ricefields…and servers??

Updated: May 13

In the landlocked province of Guizhou, in Southwest China, a city of around 5 Million people is emerging as the Big Data capital, attracting tech giants and multi-million yuan investments into the remote mountains of interior China.

In 2016, Guiyang was declared as the Best-Performing City in China by the Milken Institute thanks to the city's "growth in jobs, wages, gross domestic product (GDP). The Guizhou Province saw the third-fastest growth among China's 31 regional districts in 2016, and in 2017, Guiyang’s GDP grew 11.3% while China lagged behind at 6.9%. Behind this extraordinary growth is strategy of economic support and investment in the industries of computing, and more recently big data that has meant the reinvention of the city and the region.

Due to tax incentives and state support combined with favourable geographical conditions, multinational corporations such as Foxconn, Microsoft, Huawei, Hyundai Motor, TNN, Tencent, Qualcomm and Alibaba have established cloud computing and big-data centres as well as regional headquarters in the region.

The central government has offered a raft of incentives to attract big-data firms by establishing experimental zones and pilot programs and by giving significant discounts on electricity from the province's plentiful supply of hydro-power.

But the cool weather in Guiyang also played a pivotal role, by preventing servers overheating and contributing to energy savings. The rich power and water supply also provide reliable and cheap clean energy for big data centers. And even the geological environment on the city, which is characterised by high stability, guarantees the safety of data. As such, mountains all over the region of Guizhou are being transformed into data nests, hosting thousands of servers laid out in wind tunnels excavated among rice fields and forests.


Server tunnels excavated under hills and mountains in Guizhou, China

Fittingly, the region has been re-branded as the "Chinese data valley" in an additional effort to attract investors. In 2020, Guiyang will host for the sixth time the China International Big Data Industry Expo, the world's first national-level expo on big data that has since its launch became highlight of the province.

The 2019 event set its theme at "Data creates value, innovation drives the future" and featured speeches from global experts including Nobel Prize winner in economics Paul Romer and Turing Award winner Whitfield Diffie.

But the influence of such investments and focus in data and cloud services is not confined in tech fairs or modern offices, it is also shaping the region itself. In the Xiuwen county, located in the center of the Guizhou, five-million cameras are monitoring fields and crops 24/24h. For example, the kiwi farming industry is being revolutionised thanks to the use of cameras and smart-farming tools. These allow for instance to feed the history of the fruit's growth into a QR code, so that the consumer can see in his smartphone the location and owner of the plantation and when the kiwifruit was picked and shipped. In parallel, each scan is also monitored by the cloud platform for market analysis, in areas such as consumers' different taste preferences, which provides useful feedback for growers. Using the data, growers can adjust factors such as sugar content in the planting process based on market demands.


Sources: ChinaDaily, Bloomberg, CNN, The Telegraph

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