Featured image credit: http://699pic.com/
Reactions from tech giants
Leading tech companies in China, including Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu are ramping up efforts to fight against the intensifying epidemic. Cainiao (backed by Alibaba) and JD logistics both provide logistical support on interprovincial medical supply delivery. Traumatically affected by the daily business suspension, small business owners in Hubei were offered 10% reduced interest rate loans by Ant Financial. Bytedance has waived the fee for all the features on its enterprise management and productivity app Lark to registered companies to support telework across the country.
AI has come its way to assist. The mask-wearing has become a policy strictly applied by authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus, while most of mask-wearing inspections are done manually which could result in oversight. Baidu recently released its open-source tool based on artificial intelligence with a dataset of 100,000 faces to identify people in real-time who are not wearing masks or those who are wearing them incorrectly. The new technology claimed to be 96.5% accurate.
WeChat Pay and WeSure, an online insurance platform backed by Tencent, are offering medical assistance to small- and medium-sized vendors who are affected by the coronavirus epidemic. Eligible applicants are entitled to receive RMB 1,000 per day for up to 30 days. Apart from that, Ant Financial-backed online commercial lender Mybank has cut its interest rate by 10% for 1.8 million small business owners in Hubei where the epidemic started and whose economy is hit the most. Besides, Tencent, Alibaba and Bytedance have lifted the fee on several paid features in their teamworking applications for smaller enterprises. WeChat has also made great efforts to contain the frightening hot hits that have been popularly circulated on social media. The virus is so active, so is rumour. Hundreds of unidentified talks have spread across the internet and caught people’s attention since the outbreak, ranging from bogus medical suggestions to the fake origin of the virus. Leading social media platforms namely WeChat, Weibo and Douyin all have stepped up their efforts to curb the canard circulation in collaboration with the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s internet content watchdog, which resulted in rule-violated accounts suspended and content removed. Fact-checking campaigns are launched by some influencers with authorizations or credentials in an attempt to set the facts straight as false rumours are rampant.
Online teaching and DingTalk
Since the epidemic has rendered a number of schools closed, schooling has become a pain for all families with educating children at home. Though the online education has been settled as a stopgap measure, the new way of teaching received plentiful grumbles among parents, complaining it being too ‘formalistic’ and giving them extra responsibility on top of their regular work as children are entitled to excessive freedom of unlimited access to screens.
Various kinds of communicative tools are adopted by different schools to facilitate tele-education. Among others, DingTalk has seen the greatest surge in its downloads as it’s the chosen application for more than many schools across the country. However, the interoperative app which is backed by Alipay, received hundreds of thousands of low-star ratings from students, believing the rumour that the low rates would delist apps from app stores, after which they could be free again from endless home-study work. Some parents have also joined the ‘rating-down campaign’, accusing the constant and agitating ‘ding’ notifications every time when a new assignment is released, distract them from the already compacted life and work. To appease their anger, DingTalk released a self-joking video featured memes and cartoons with begging lyrics and catchy tunes for positive reviews, hoping to win back its reputation in the app review fields.
Teaching online is not a new idea in China. Leading companies have already had stakes in this market by investing edtech novas like Yuanfudao and VIPKID so as to diversify their business interests. Meanwhile, obstacles exist despite the financial aiding since they have struggled to gain a foothold as user acquisition costs outstrip revenue – no matter how much the advertising budget being squandered, the predominance of offline private test prep courses and tutoring centres didn’t seem dented. However, with those shutdowns, edtech sees a window of opportunity – parents are anxious about having their children lagging behind peers and they started flocking into online education, and on the other end, agencies have correspondingly offered free trial courses through all-levels serving for new user acquisition.