SCO taps into Alibaba for a digital future amid COVID-19 pandemic
Updated 19:11, 29-May-2020
By Abhishek G Bhaya
SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov at the SCO Secretariat, Beijing, May 28, 2020. /Photo via SCOLAR Network

SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov at the SCO Secretariat, Beijing, May 28, 2020. /Photo via SCOLAR Network

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) chief on Thursday stressed on the need for its member states to cooperate in the areas of digital, information and communication technology amid the COVID-19 global pandemic while lauding Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group for its efforts towards promoting digital entrepreneurship and innovative solutions during the ongoing crisis.

"The pandemic has made it clear that digitization and information and communications technology are essential for the continued functioning of the economy and society as a whole. The modern world is on the verge of unprecedented, might say, revolutionary technological changes," SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov said.

"Thanks to innovative thinking and a visionary approach, the Alibaba Group has been able to quickly implement new technologies and modern solutions to prevent the spread of the virus, assist the public and protect medical personnel," he said while delivering the opening speech at the Agora online conference, organized jointly by the SCO Secretariat and Alibaba Business School and co-organized by SCOLAR Network and SCO Youth Council with the support of SCO Business Council Secretariat.

"The SCO Secretariat strives to work closely with the Alibaba Group and other companies in the field of digital economy to help young people in the SCO countries, whose total number exceeds 800 million, to make extensive use of information and communication technologies, to develop digital entrepreneurship and electronic commerce," Norov said.

The SCO is an Eurasian political, economic and security bloc comprising eight member states (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), four observer states (Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia) and six countries as dialogue partners (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey).

Highlighting some of the measures taken by Alibaba to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Norov noted the group provided humanitarian assistance to many countries around the world, including the "SCO family."

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It is also worth mentioning that this company has created over 46 million jobs in recent years, and more than 110 million companies and entrepreneurs are involved in its platform. Alibaba Group plans to create 100 million more new jobs by 2036.

Norov said that Thursday's Agora online conference, titled "Digital Actions for Entrepreneurs in the Age of COVID-19 – Key Learnings from Alibaba" was organized "to help business people and the young generation of the SCO countries to take advantage of existing opportunities and unlock their great potential to develop their digital businesses, and to assist their countries in strengthening public health and economic recovery."

The name of the conference was inspired by Alibaba Global Initiatives (AGI) recently released handbook with the same title. The book offers insights to help businesses rise above the coronavirus outbreak through digital technologies and innovations.

The main session included a panel discussion with Alibaba Group's Vice President and AGI head Brian A Wong, moderated by SCOLAR co-founder Olim Alimov. Wong shared the experiences the tech giant went through since the beginning of the pandemic and highlighted the support it extended to SME's to help them with their business transformation and ensure their survival.

Brian A Wong, Alibaba Group vice president and head of Alibaba Global Initiatives, addressing the Agora online conference via Zoom. /Photo via SCOLAR Network

Brian A Wong, Alibaba Group vice president and head of Alibaba Global Initiatives, addressing the Agora online conference via Zoom. /Photo via SCOLAR Network

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"This was a very obviously stressful time for all of us, starting in the end of January all the way till now. But I'd say that there was a moment where our team was sitting around talking about what we can do to help the situation. And all around us at the company, each of the business units were doing amazing things to help those employees that were being affected by this, but also the larger community. We had a response that was both internal and external," said Wong.

"And the internal response is really building what we call the "3-Cs" among the team, and that was communication, connection and commitment, making sure that everyone knew what was happening, making sure that we were all in contact with one another, and making sure that we all knew what it was in real time to achieve together," he said.

"And on the external side, we said that we want to leverage our platform and technology, first to save lives; second to support for SMEs and their survival; third to help the larger society. So then how do you take the external, internal and package that in a way that other people can understand so that they have some inspiration to think about how they can leverage their skills and abilities and technology to help their communities. So that's how the visual action handbook came into existence," Wong said narrating the story behind the AGI handbook.

"We found after the two months of advanced experience that we had a responsibility to share these lessons with the rest of the world through this handbook, but also help them envision and visualize what technology can do for the world. Not everything in that handbook is doable for many companies, because Alibaba now is a very large organization. But at the same time, it can help you envision what technology can do for you. And then give some ideas and inspiration because there are things that are cited in the handbook that are immediately actionable," he elaborated.