Inside Shanghai’s plans to become the world’s first digital capital by 2035



An ancient Japanese legend has it that folding a thousand paper cranes would grant you a wish from the gods. Shanghai will offer 1,000 digital innovation projects in its ambition to become the world’s leading digital capital by 2035.

56 of these projects are already in place. One of them is a flood prevention system that collects data from weather departments, utilities, and over 800,000 IoT sensors.

Other projects also require good technology and good planning to put in place. GovInsider examines how Shanghai plans to achieve its vision, bringing public services online, building for an aging population and encouraging innovation.

Transforming public services

Shanghai is changing the way governments can reach citizens with digital public services.

The arrival of the Covid-19 last year prompted an urgent response from the government. The city has launched a QR code app for citizens to fill out health declarations in public places such as airports and workplaces, Yong Lu, vice president of the Shanghai Data Exchange Corporation, told GovInsider.

Employees or visitors simply need to scan a QR code to share their health status with the facility, which greatly simplifies the contract finding process.

The application has spread to other government departments. For example, citizens only need to use this app to access buses and trains on the integrated public transport system.

In addition, the Pudong region has piloted an “integrated single license” system to simplify administrative processes for businesses. Before that, a person setting up a convenience store would have to apply for a liquor license or a food business license, among other complicated processes. This system unifies all these applications under a single license.

The government also informs companies before their license expires. Different companies are classified into respective risk levels to determine when and how often warnings should be given to them, said Song Weihua, deputy director of the Shanghai-Pudong New Area district committee office at the working conference. on Shanghai’s municipal digital transformation last year.

Bridging the digital divide

Shanghai is stepping up efforts to build a more senior-friendly digital society as the country grapples with an aging population. Last year, there were 10 people over 70 for every 100 working adults. The trend is expected to worsen, Reuters reported.

Simple steps can help. Shanghai has launched a taxi calling app for the elderly, with larger fonts and a simple interface that calls a taxi with one touch, CGTN reported.

Shanghai citizens can also hail a taxi through a kiosk, instead of having to navigate a complicated interface, Shine wrote. It helps the senior generation to access the amenities of living in a digital society.

The city seeks to give citizens more control over their data. It aims to make every citizen a “producer, governor, user and recipient of data,” a public document from the Shanghai municipal government revealed.

A sandbox for innovation

Shanghai plans to create a digital playground for budding entrepreneurs. It is well positioned for this – the city has the most 5G stations in the country, Shanghai Daily wrote.

This high-speed network will be essential in supporting projects such as Didi Chuxing’s robotic taxi service which has been implemented in Shanghai, Reuters reported. These autonomous taxis communicate with the equipment installed at intersections, in order to minimize incidents caused by blind spots from sensors.

In addition, the Smart Jing’An district will integrate more than 500,000 IoT devices into city departments, the Shanghai Daily reported. These sensors will be implemented in things such as fire alarms or road condition reports.

Besides building physical infrastructure, Shanghai is also preparing to support policies that encourage technological innovation.

In a public document sharing the Shanghai municipal government’s priorities for urban digital transformation, he explained that the government will strive to eliminate bureaucratic policies to foster innovation. This could signal a greater appetite for market-driven innovation, which will direct finances to the best services and products.

Data security

As Shanghai enters a new digital age, it recognizes the need to put citizens’ trust first.

The government’s goal in building a smart city is to serve the people, not for business purposes, explained Tan Chang, executive director of iFlyTek’s Big Data Research Institute at the transformation working conference. Shanghai Municipal digital last year. The most important thing is not to cross borders, he added.

Shanghai will increase the level of security to protect the data in its custody. For example, after extracting key facial data from a photo, databases store encrypted data instead of the original photo. Encrypted data cannot be restored, Tan explained. Complicit hackers could never get their hands on the private information of citizens.

Shanghai is sometimes called the Magic City, but its vision of becoming the world’s first digital city is more than a series of empty flourishes. It will focus on creating accessible and inclusive digital public services, while fostering innovation and empowering citizens.


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