Hangzhou and Alibaba; making public private partnerships work


Hangzhou, a city with 21 million residents in China, 170 km southwest of Shanghai is a good example of a smart city, working hard to get smarter. Hangzhou has been declared the biggest beneficiary of mobile internet social services through the Chinese government’s Internet Plus initiative for smart cities for 2016.

But the city is not doing this alone, it has the help of one of the largest companies in the world, Alibaba, which has its headquarters in the city. The Chinese government is helping cities by including big companies in all their government programmes, like the creation of smart cities.

Alibaba and 13 other companies are now working with the local government on public private partnerships (PPP) to create smart service delivery systems for the city. Some examples:

  • Hangzhou on Palm: the world’s largest smart-app-based public bicycle system. The system has 38,000 bicycles stationed at 2,500-plus docking points.
  • Hangzhou City Brain, driven by the Alibaba Group, is set to redefine city smartness. It aims to use big data to help the city ‘think’ and make decisions, according to a statement released during its launch.
  • Alibaba’s traffic control pilot programme, showed that by controlling signals and predicting traffic trends there has been an 11% increase in speed on a few road sections.
  • Hangzhou Resident Card: a kind of credit card with access to 13 e-services, from “withdrawing money from the local ATM, renting a bicycle, hopping on to a bus, buying groceries, accessing libraries and gyms, to grabbing a meal, paying taxes and even booking a hospital appointment.”

There is one downside: Hangzhou’s smart initiatives made life easier for its residents, but also more costly. The initiatives created an overload of jobs, resulting in large scale immigration of high paid young workers. This again resulted in the rise of housing costs etcetera.

More information and a comparison with India can be found here.


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