FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific


CASE 4 -- Servicing villages with big data and digital platforms in China: the case of Deqing village4

When you walk in the streets in Chinese cities, you notice people pull out their smart phones before they do almost everything: ordering food, hailing a taxi, renting a sharing bike, taking a bus, paying their bills. You name it. Almost all the daily activities you can imagine in China can be done with a few clicks on a smart phone. This is just the tip of the iceberg of China’s digitalization world. Cities are not the only places embedded with big data and cutting-edge technology; rural areas are catching up too.

Nowadays, benefiting from the development of big data and digitalization, many villages in China reboot their economy and modernize their inhabitants’ lifestyle, embracing a more sustainable future. Located in the north of Zhejiang Province, Deqing County has been awarded various honours in economic development. But this small county has now caught the nation’s attention with its visionary move in digitalizing village agriculture production and its living environment with big data.  

Faced with an aging population, diminishing agriculture production and a changing market, the county has been struggling to find new ways to boost its economy and improve people’s lives.  In 2019, Deqing was selected as one of the national pilot sites of digitalizing agriculture to explore the model of digital technologies for rural vitalization. With financial and technical support from the government, Deqing has built ten digital agricultural demonstration parks and 100 digital application demonstration parks. The county has carried out a large-scale digital revolution by increasing financial input, integrating various resources, and based on geographic information technology, centring on the whole rural area and the complete industrial chain of agricultural production.

Deqing County has made spectacular
achievements in digitalization, which hopefully
can be a valuable reference for national rural digitalization and vitalization in the near future

Big data technology not only revitalizes agriculture production but also generates new economic development opportunities. Although Deqing has several signature agriculture products, sales have been restricted by the lack of advertising and increasing food safety requirements for the customer. With the help of a data monitoring system built in the county, the government created a tracking system for local agriculture products. Customers can get the origin details and quality inspection report of their food by simply scanning a matrix code attached to the product. By using this technology, Deqing’s blackfish alone achieved 290 million RMB sales in 2019, which was unimaginable in the past. Meanwhile, the local government also invited internet influencers to sell their agriculture products via live streaming, the trendiest sales method in China now, eliminating the physical distance between customers and producers. 

Empowering the sale of local products is not the only thing digitalization has brought to Deqing, it also adds value to local tourism. In the past, tourism business owners offered limited services. Tourists came to visit once or twice then never went back. With big data built into a tourism system, business owners tailor their services to tourists’ needs, turning new customers into regulars. Similar creative adoption of big data can be seen in Deqing’s shrimp farming and e-commerce platform construction.

With the economy booming and people’s income increasing, Deqing’s governance power is improving too: public service procedures have been simplified and efficiency accelerated.  Based on multitype and multitemporal spatial data, 18 administrative layers in each department are superimposed to construct a digital rural map. Each administrative village has its own features and the digital village model is built best represent the specific natural features of the village with unique visual representations. Community members can now skip the various bureaucratic stages to make their voice heard by reporting their concerns on a smart phone. Meanwhile, there is a digital medical record for everyone. Family doctors track the health status of each household member via an online record to provide timely medical services when they are needed.

The local government also includes digitalization in environment protection to secure a sustainable future. The newly built Deqing Ju system is an intelligent supervision system for the whole area to renovate rural environmental sanitation. All administrative villages in the county now have visual supervision, improving the speed of environmental sanitation treatment and disposal and enhancing the governance effect. Surveillance systems covering water resources, air quality, and forest conditions are set up for real time monitoring. The environmental protection team has also distributed smart sorting waste containers to every household. 

The comprehensive adoption of digital technologies for digital rural transformation in Deqing has improved rural development, rural governance and rural services. With the government taking the lead and support from the private sector and local farmers, Deqing County has made spectacular achievements in digitalization, which hopefully can be a valuable reference for national rural digitalization and vitalization in the near future.

CASE 5 -- Digital village in China: The case of Henglu village and the National Agriculture Extension Cloud Platform

The last mile is always the most difficult part for agricultural technology extension. Henglu village faced the same challenge years ago. But now, the last mile problem in Henglu has been fixed through the National Agriculture Extension Cloud Platform (NAECP) of China.

Located near the world famous porcelain capital Jingdezhen City, Henglu is a traditional village supporting 1 795 households with 7 740 people. It has 4.85 square kilometres of cultivated land and 11.2 square kilometres that are mountainous. The villagers here used to have difficulty receiving the latest agricultural market information, communicating with agricultural technicians, or adopting innovative agricultural technologies.

Changes started to appear several years ago, when NAECP came to the villagers of Henglu. NAECP is an example of using information and communication technologies (ICT) in agricultural technology extension. It has various functions such as information exchange, expert consultation, remote diagnosis, online Q&A, agricultural products’ marketing and online training designed for smallholder farmers and local agricultural technology extension personnel.

A team from the Agricultural Information Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), led by Professor Wang Wensheng, developed the NAECP. After about ten years of development, NAECP has been able to provide the following services.

  • Enabling farmers to have timely online consultation with agricultural technicians or experts.
  • Serving as a knowledge assistant to agricultural technicians, NAECP is available to help answer questions on crop management, pests and diseases among others.  
  •  Improved agricultural extension services through real time, fast, massive, and unrestricted transmission of agricultural technology information. 
  • Upgraded management systems used by agricultural technology extension personnel. By applying functions like GPS locating, real time video and working logs of NAECP, supervisors can achieve dynamic management and more evidence-based evaluation of the agricultural technology extension personnel.
  • It contributes to agricultural decision-making. By using NAECP, agricultural technology extension personnel can collect important information on production and operation in real time, such as meteorological disasters, diseases and infestations, providing first hand data and information that are vital in decision-making.

The NAECP has facilitated more than 240 million online interactions between farmers and agricultural technicians, and between agricultural technicians and experts

Government support is essential to promote NAECP widely in China. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has provided a special fund for developing and maintaining NAECP. Local authorities connect with different government departments to obtain the real data needed by the platform.

Henglu is only one of thousands of villages benefiting from NAECP. The platform has reached nearly 9 million farmers and 320 000 agricultural technology extension personnel in nearly 2 000 counties of 29 provinces in China. It has facilitated more than 240 million online interactions between farmers and agricultural technicians, and between agricultural technicians and experts.

CASE 6 -- The digital transformation of Shuanghui village in China via Yinong Information Services

In 2014 the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China initiated Yinong Information Services (YIS). YIS was established through the project Information into Village, targeting the rural population and spearheaded by agricultural and rural departments. The main objective of YIS is to provide services for farmers using ICT (information communication technologies). The project focuses on building information service capacity at village level, to meet the information needs of farmers' production and their daily life. By 2018 YIS had been set up in more than 204 000 villages across China.

One such village is Shuanghui in Shizhu County, Chongqing, where 137 poor households get by on very limited income. But since the arrival of YIS in 2016 these families have started to reap the benefits through higher incomes, earning more from farming, poultry and, most importantly, from e-commerce.

YIS helped to promote branded local agricultural products online, covering 82 different products with average annual turnover of RMB 1.2 million. To achieve better quality control with these products, a QR code was added and consumers can easily track the origin
of products they buy.

In Shuanghui village YIS provides non-profit services to local farmers in four main areas.

First, public welfare services. YIS organizes agricultural technicians and experts to provide guidance to local villagers via an online platform. Yinong has published 860 posts on farming skills, poultry farming, information on agricultural products and relevant policies, rules and regulations.

Second, a financial convenience service. YIS has connected with banks, post offices, village committees and other local departments to provide a convenience service to Shuanghui villagers. It has assisted with transactions, paying utility bills, express delivery and other services on about 1 100 occasions each year.

Third, e-commerce promotion. YIS helped to promote branded local agricultural products online, covering 82 different products with an average annual turnover of over RMB 1.2 million. To achieve better quality control with these products, a QR code was added. By scanning the QR code consumers can easily track the origin of products they buy.

Fourth, e-commerce training. YIS aims to turn Shuanghui village into the top e-commerce village of Shizhu County. To achieve it, Yinong actively organizes poor households and other local villagers to participate in various training programmes ranging from sustainable farming to e-commerce operations. YIS has trained 350 people, including more than 60 from poor households. Among the people receiving training, 14 have successfully set up an e-commerce business.