3 Ways China’s Bigtechs are Helping to Tackle the Coronavirus Crisis

3 Ways China’s Bigtechs are Helping to Tackle the Coronavirus Crisis

by February 10, 2020

In the midst of the global health crisis involving the novel coronavirus (2019 nCoV), China’s bigtechs including Tencent and Ant Financial, the financial affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, have deployed solutions and set up financial aid programs to help combat the outbreak, support families and medical staff, and fight fake news.


Providing financial aid

Since the beginning of the month, Tencent’s mobile payments platform WeChat Pay and online insurance platform WeSure have been offering financial support to small merchants hospitalized for treatment of the virus, reports TechNode. Merchants can apply for financial aid via WeChat Pay, and those eligible for the aid can receive RMB 1,000 (US$143.5) per day for up to 30 days. The plan is valid until February 29.

Meanwhile, an Alipay-owned insurance platform said that it will help affected staff apply for RMB 100,000 (US$14,000) each for treatment. In case of death, it will help their families apply for RMB 500,000 (US$72,000),.

Separately, Alibaba’s co-founder and China’s richest man Jack Ma, announced in late January that he had made a RMB 100 million (US$14.5 million) donation through his charitable foundation to help scientists develop a vaccine for the virus. Part of the fund will also go towards prevention and treatment efforts worldwide.

The move was unveiled just days after Alibaba said it would spend RMB 1 billion (US$143 million) on medical supplies for hospitals in Wuhan and the Hubei province.


Leveraging blockchain to process track virus-related data

Tech companies in China have also been leveraging cutting edge technologies, including blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), for various use cases related to the virus outbreak.

In Hong Kong, Blue Cross (Asia-Pacific) Insurance, a unit of Bank of East Asia (BEA), said its blockchain-based platform has helped to ease pressure on health care services by shortening time spent on back-end data verification and other paperwork, according to a report by the South China Morning Post.

The company said its platform is capable of handling more than 1,000 concurrent transactions in a second without human involvement, thus reducing need for face-to-face contact.

Another insurance services provider that has relied on blockchain to fast track claims payouts is Xiang Hu Bao, the online mutual aid platform owned by Ant Financial. The platform is a collective claims-sharing mechanism built on blockchain that offers basic health plans. It uses a blockchain network to fasten settlements and reduce fraud, and is available on Alipay.


Fighting fake news

Amid rampant rumors about the virus spreading on Chinese social media and causing panic, local social media platforms have rolled out tools for combating fake news, according to an Abacus report.

Microblogging platform Weibo and ByteDance’s news aggregator Toutiao have in-house fact checkers and regularly debunk popular rumors.

Tencent, which operates the widely popular WeChat platform, does in-house fact-checking too but in addition to that also has a team under Tencent News called Jiaozhen which works with medical professionals as well as organizations such as local police and news media for fact checking.

Tencent frequently publishes articles which can be found in a WeChat mini program called Jiaozhen. The mini program gathers popular topics regarding coronavirus developments and labels them true, questionable or false.

Tencent said that as of February 1, Jiaozhen had “provided rumor debunking services” more than 350 million times during the outbreak.


Other initiatives

But these are just some of the numerous initiatives launched over the past couple of weeks to help combat the outbreak.

Alibaba has teamed up with Beijing-based Global Health Drug Discovery Institute to develop an open-source coronavirus data platform and has also made available its cloud-based AI-powered computing platform to global institutions to accelerate research in treating and preventing the disease, according to a Nikkei Asian Review report.

Search engine company Baidu is using its data to help track down suspected patients and map the flow of citizens in all Chinese cities, and Hong Kong-based SenseTime, the world’s leading AI software developer, is helping Beijing develop an algorithm that aims to improve the accuracy of identifying fever patients in a crowd.

As of January 31, more than 30 tech and other new economy companies including Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, telecom equipment maker Huawei, TikTok owner ByteDance and food delivery firm, Meituan-Dianping, had collectively donated over RMB 3 billion (US$430 million) to help with the virus outbreak, reports the South China Morning Post.

Earlier, Country Garden and China Evergrande, two of the country’s biggest property developers, along with about 80 companies from the sector, offered a combined RMB 1.2 billion (US$170 million) in aid.

The current coronavirus outbreak has already claimed 910 deaths and infected more than 40,000 people around the world, with the vast majority of deaths and cases being inside mainland China and concentrated in the central province of Hubei, where the outbreak is believed to have originated in.