Sophie Liu: Technological Transformation for Poverty Alleviation

Developing a flexible model for rural entrepreneurship

This summer, I had the opportunity to visit Shaji in rural China. The little village, known as a "rubbish village" for the last 30 years because villagers collected waste to earn an extra 30RMB ($4 USD) per family a day for subsistence, was submerged in odor and environmental hazards. Since 2007, however, e-commerce has enabled a hell-to-heaven transformation, liberating farmers from unforgiving fields, bridging the distance between consumers and producers, and bringing new life to the village with young, educated workers returning from the city. The average per capita income increased by 15 times in 2018 — 85% higher than the national average for rural per-capita income, and the total revenue from e-Commerce in Shaji reached USD1.7 billion.

Throughout the year, I hope to examine the success of Shaji, one of now over three thousand “Taobao villages” in rural China, as an example of rural revitalization. I will work on developing a flexible model for rural entrepreneurship that encapsulates the success of e-commerce adoption in this rural community that can potentially be applied to similar communities around the world. The lack of economic opportunities for struggling rural communities is an acute problem. Access to appropriate technologies and infrastructure, combined with proper policy, may be able to help uplift these poverty-stricken places and develop a more equitable world.

Image credits:

An idealized representation of a Taobao Village as a ‘small acre city’, created by Drawing Architecture Studio for ‘Building a Future Countryside’ at the Chinese Pavilion of the 2018 Venice Biennale.

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