Pony Ma: Chinese Companies were Technology Followers, Now Must Become Drivers

Tencent Chairman and CEO Pony Ma spoke about the digital economy at the Fourth World Internet Conference Wuzhen Forum. Ma said innovation is key to Tencent‘s goal of becoming an Internet-based technology and culture company.

He believes the digital economy has become the fastest growing, most innovative and most radiant economic activity. In the face of a new global industrial revolution, Chinese companies need to take on the role of technical contributors and drivers.

The following is the transcript of the speech:

Distinguished guests, good afternoon!

It is a great honor for me to come to the World Internet Conference again. This is my fourth visit to Wuzhen. Every year, and I can find some new changes. This year, the most obvious as you can see, many service at the meeting has digital upgrades, such as automatic license plate recognition, face recognition, mobile phone scanning for hailing touring car, food order, etc., as well as mobile payments, like WeChat payment and sharing bikes like Mobike. These are the innovations of the digital economy that have been growing rapidly in the past one to two years. These small changes make people feel the benefits of digital technology. In addition, we also found that the exhibition hall has stronger sense of technology this year with fruitful scientific and technological achievements, such as robots, translation machines, quantum communication, etc. This year’s exhibition project, including Tencent’s, is largely related to cutting-edge technologies, such as AI and VR.

The theme this year is “Developing Digital Economy for Openness and Shared Benefits – Building a Community of Common Future in Cyberspace”. In the past year, the digital economy has become the fastest growing, most innovative and most widely used economic activity. The world’s leading technology and Internet companies are standing on the point. In just one year, we’ve seen seven of the world’s 10 largest companies by market capitalization are technology companies, and five of them are Internet companies. But when the applause gets warmer, we need to be more aware of our responsibilities.

Today, I want to share the understanding of responsibility from three aspects:

The first is innovation. We have proposed this year that Tencent is going to be an Internet-based technology and culture company, and the key is innovation. In the digital economy, new products are iterated in months and even days, and large companies need to iterate very fast and agile. In the face of a new round of global industrial revolution, new technology offers a chance to reshuffle. In the past, Chinese companies have mainly been the followers of new technologies, but today we need to be the drivers and contributors of new technologies, working together with global partners. For instance, Tencent opens up the latest technology to enterprises through Tencent cloud; promotes the development of cultural and creative industries through content opening platform. In the future, more technology and cultural products will go to the world through the digital silk road.

Over the past year, Tencent has invested in new technology and made some gains. We set up the company’s AI Lab and set up the first overseas laboratory in Seattle, U.S. For example, the Tencent Miying that you see in the exhibition hall is our first medical image AI product. The patients go to the hospital, do the CT and MRI. Then, it basically depends on the doctor’s personal experience. Now, we can use the AI and large data capacity, and let the machine screening and analyzing medical images to assist in diagnosis. At present, we have very good research results in esophageal cancer, diabetes and lung cancer. Esophageal cancer screening is more accurate than traditional screening methods. We are working with more hospitals.

The second is to empowerment. The relationship between digital economy and real economy is integration instead of substitution. Digital technology, represented by the Internet, helps to integrate online and offline. In the past, we said, Internet companies are trying to address the “pain points” of individual users. In the future, the digital economy requires that our Internet companies empower all industries to solve the “pain points” of traditional enterprises. We need a smart connection to help all industries achieve digital transformation and upgrades, so that all industries can finally deal with big data via artificial intelligence in the cloud end. Especially in manufacturing, which is the main field, we need to promote the integration among software, hardware and services through “Internet + advanced manufacturing”. This kind of empowerment and innovation has no ready-made experience to draw lessons from. Thus, all Internet companies need to cooperate with all walks of life together, to explore and try in open and sharing attitude.

For example, recently we have been working with public transport departments around China and launched traveling codes. It has landed in 12 cities, including Hefei, Guangzhou and Chongqing. By using the WeChat mini program which generating QR code, users can save the time of queuing to buy tickets and simply scan the code in front of the lock to take the bus or subway. Even in the offline mode, the code can respond in about 0.2 seconds. This innovation can also help the transportation department to realize passenger real-name in the future. It is of great significance to solve urban traffic congestion and travel safety.

The third is governance. Digital platform based on Internet, is changing from the “multi-user platform” into “all users” platform. It now becomes the basic needs of all individuals and organizations, just like water and electricity facilities. This also puts forward new requirements for the Internet company’s business model, corporate responsibility, organization form and so on. We note that President Xi Jinping has put forward the concept of “community of shared future for mankind”. The World Internet Conference also stressed contributing to the governance of the global Internet and building a “community of shared future”. Currently, various new problems in community of shared future involve legal, moral, technology, culture and other aspects, which couldn’t be solved by one company or organization. It needs all governments, industry partners and the social sectors from all walks of life together to explore, to build and to work together. Last year I mentioned the “co-governance model” that we are exploring in areas such as information security and cyber telecom fraud. This year, in the protection of minors, we have launched a “growth guard platform” to help parents understand and monitor the game behavior of minors. The platform now covers more than 200 game products owned by Tencent, which are the first in the industry. Internet companies, parents and the education agency need to work together to achieve good results.

All in all, I believe that the “community of shared future in cyberspace” will depend on the co-development and co-governance of the social parties. I hope, Tencent will assume more responsibility, and to become part of “China power” and “China solution” as well as make greater contribution to “the community of shared future in cyberspace”.

Thank you!

This article originally appeared in Netease Technology and was translated by Pandaily.