Baidu, jointly with Association for Underdeveloped Regions in China (AURC), has helped launch National College Student Competition on Rural Informatization Innovation, and established environmental-friendly computer classrooms in rural primary schools. (Note that this is not the only company involved in this scheme which is galloping along.)
Li Yanhong, Board Chairman and CEO of Baidu Company, said it is the responsibility of enterprises to aid "agriculture, farmers and rural areas" but added, frankly, it is a new opportunity for the internet to develop further.
It is generally agreed that with the increasingly saturated urban market the rural market is becoming a new growth point for not only Baidu but also all telecom operators and internet service suppliers.
To expand the rural market it is neccessary to increase investment so that the connections are in place to popularize computers, mobile phones and broadband networks in rural areas.
Since 2004, China has had a project "Telephones covering all villages". In December, 2007, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology jointly launched "Household appliances going to the countryside" activity and arranged subsidies for mobile phones and computers.
"Telephones covering all villages" was a first step. Telephones have been installed in well over 90% of all villages in China. Meanwhile, broadband covers 95% of villages and towns, and "Internet covering all townships" has been realized in 27 provinces.
By the end of 2008, rural netizen number had reached 84.6 million with an annual growth rate higher than 60%.
China Economic Net reports that, while reinforcing platform integration, the three major telephone operators are working with such computer companies as Lenovo and Founder to farmers with training services so that they can properly use the internet.
Baidu is working from the other end providing farmers e-business and information catering to their needs and demands. Note that this is not a new idea. The writer was involved in setting up a similar system in France over 20 years ago.