CEBRI - Brazil-China post-Covid-19: The Digital City

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Brazil-China post-Covid-19: The Digital City

14/01/2021

The webinar “Brazil-China post-Covid-19: The digital city”, held on September 29th, 2020, was the second of a cycle of three events organized by CEBRI sponsored by the Chinese Embassy to foster new themes for expanding bilateral cooperation.

During the webinar, the participants highlighted the challenges and opportunities to implement a comprehensive program of digital cities in Brazil as a strategic way to raise the standards of public services and help the overall development of the country. Besides, they stressed out that digital cities can improve the quality of life for Brazilian citizens. Regarding this issue, Chinese experience in digital cities is notable and the bilateral cooperation between China and Brazil can be strategic and benefit both countries, especially in a long term.

“The future is being built by China over the last two decades at a fantastic growing speed that was made possible by planning, education, and intelligence. During this period almost one billion people were taken out of misery, urbanized, and integrated. Almost 15 years ago we were named by some American bankers with some other nations as BRICs. And now China has surpassed Brazil by far. China has a lot to teach us about this path to the future”, said Miguel Pinto Guimarães.

China is at the forefront of the development of digital city technologies. It also became a leader in the production of sensing and network devices and all kind of gadgets, which combined with Cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) constitute the heart of the digital cities, covering structuring sectors like transport, security, health, education, among others.
The connected city is an environment where services should work for everyone. In this sense, digital inclusion is a priority precondition to transforming societies, but it is a problem that has not yet been overcome in Brazil, due to lack of investment and infrastructure. Ultimately, digital inclusion, participants stressed out, is necessary for data management that can have a high impact on income generation and services provision.

From an agricultural society to an industrialized nation and then to a world leader in technology, China quickly developed its potential. The digital transformation happened in a fast path in just the last fifteen years, showing the potential of technology for economic and social transformation. Nonetheless, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the full implementation of the digital cities program in China in the last months. But the health crisis was also an opportunity to implement digital solutions supported by the current digital infrastructure in that country to confront and prevent the disease such as the ‘Travel History Card’.

“The Chinese program enabled the government to track 1.6 billion people through their travel history information in domestic cities in a period cycle of 14 days using text messages, QR codes, and web portals”, stressed out Chen Cai, Senior Engineer and Director of Information Technology Department of Planning at the Institute of China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT).
Based on telecommunications Big Data, the system was able to generate automatically different signs of alert like green, yellow, and red indicators according to the epidemic severity in different regions of the country. As a result, the Travel Card has played an important role in Covid-19’s prevention and control in China despite some criticism related to mass surveillance.

“The objective of the smart cities is to have equality and services for everybody living in these cities, not only for some people. In this situation, we need to use digital technology to provide inclusion services to everyone to push information services with smart devices. And we can also have some smart instructions for everyone living in sustainable places”, pointed out Chen Cai.

Regarding China and Brazil currently bilateral relations on technology, both countries have signed an agreement in 1982 for cooperation on this topic and have been working together consistently for a long time. The context of the Covid-19 pandemic and a heightened global technology competition between China and the United States of America, somehow have impacted the cooperation of Brazil with the Asian country. Despite the fact that the current phase of relations on state level is not as synergetic as it once was, there are some innovative and remarkable initiatives of groups held by members of the private, public and third sectors that exchange insightful experiences and promising ideas on this topic.

“China-Brazil science technology cooperation has many complementary advantages and huge potential. Therefore, strengthening the cooperation between China and Brazil in the field of the digital economy is of great importance to economic recovery and development over the pandemic. I believe this seminar will further deepen the bilateral cooperation not only in digital cities after Covid-19 but also in broad areas to benefit people of our two countries”, highlighted Mr. Gao Changlin, science and technology advisor at Embassy of China in Brazil.

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