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Here’s how drone delivery will change the face of global logistics

Jon Liao

The power of technology to bring positive change is well documented and well understood across the planet. However, when its benefits are distributed unequally across different strata of society, technology creates barriers, dividing peoples and inhibiting social development and economic growth. This so-called “digital divide” is something we at JD.com, a Chinese e-commerce company, and the World Economic Forum are striving to narrow.

In our experience, we have seen how the right technology, employed in the right way, can instead create bridges. A recent example is commercial drone delivery.

By using drones to deliver goods, even the most far-flung, hard to reach places in remote and rural areas become instantly accessible and connected.

Speedy and efficient alternatives to using automobiles, trucks, and trains to traverse treacherous terrain, drones can get to these places in minutes. We see drones as part of a larger smart logistics initiative, bringing people, places and goods closer together, faster and more conveniently.

Whether it’s an emergency situation, where minutes shaved can mean lives spared, to simply being able to speed necessities and goods to people who need them, drones make impractical routes practical.

Further, with the cost of deliveries in some countries’ rural areas estimated to be five times greater than in urban areas, using drones at scale can help equalize economic opportunity and access to affordable consumer goods between regions by bringing down the cost of rural logistics.

We recently had the opportunity to again witness the profound impact that this technology can have on people’s lives. On January 8, after working together alongside local government officials for more than half a year, JD.com in collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) successfully completed the first ever government-approved drone delivery flight in Indonesian history.

This test delivery to the Mis Nural Falah Leles elementary school in Jagabita Village, Parung Panjang, Indonesia, opened the door to the possibilities the technology holds. Students who watched as the drone brought backpacks for their school excitedly asked when they could start getting packages delivered to their homes this way.

Timothy Reuter, Head of Drones and Tomorrow’s Airspace at the World Economic Forum, says: “These tests are an opportunity for Indonesia to become a leader in the Southeast Asia region by leveraging drone delivery to improve access to vital medical, humanitarian, and commercial goods in remote areas.”

JD.com was an early mover in e-commerce in Southeast Asia. Recognizing the potential of the market there, JD saw many characteristics similar to the developing Chinese market of the last decade, including a rapidly growing rate of mobile and internet penetration, the lack of nationwide logistics infrastructure, a relatively weak bricks-and-mortar retail system, and price disparities across different areas.

The company formed a joint venture with a local partner to launch an e-commerce business in Indonesia in 2016. Since then, that business has grown to become a formidable player in the market, selling more than one million units of stock (SKUs) and serving more than 20 million consumers across the republic.

Of course, one enormous challenge that is unique to Indonesia is its topography. Being spread out across more than 17,000 islands, the country poses significant challenges for efficient last-mile logistics.

Putting drones into operation for e-commerce deliveries and other logistics-related services can help give Indonesians access to unprecedented efficiency and reliability of services. It will also play a role in making same-day and next-day delivery a reality across the country. This, in turn, will raise the bar for customer service throughout the country.

We believe, however, that this is just the beginning. Drone delivery has the potential to completely change the face of global logistics.

As this pilot drone flight in Indonesia shows, when the private sector, local governments, and groups such as the Forum’s C4IR, collaborate effectively, barriers fall and bridges are created. (weforum.org)

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WhatsApp to introduce Dark Mode & New Cool features for Android

Monitoring Desk

CALIFORNIA: WhatsApp is one of the most widely used messaging apps around the world. The Facebook-owned company, WhatsApp has been working hard to make its app more user-friendly and convenient for its users. Recently, we have come to know that WhatsApp Dark Mode will soon make its way to the users. WABetaInfo has recently posted a concept image of the Dark Mode for WhatsApp For Android.  It shows that the rollout now seems imminent.

The Dark mode will use light-colored texts, icons and other UI elements against a dark background. The mode will be quite similar to the ones released for other Apps. This new feature of WhatsApp will not only help in reducing eye fatigue but will also allow the user to sleep better. Furthermore, it also helps extend the battery life of a device with an OLED screen. Let’s have a look at the concept image posted by WABetaInfo.

In addition to the Dark Mode, WhatsApp is also releasing some other cool features that will provide an improved user experience. According to the reports, Whatsapp will incorporate a fingerprint lock mechanism in order to address privacy concerns. After that, you will not have to install lock apps from the play store. Furthermore, the WhatsApp Latest Update is also expected to make it able for you to view videos directly from the notification tray now.

In addition to all this, WhatsApp’s new Consecutive Voice Message feature will also make its way to the Android users. It will automatically play the next message after you finish listening to the first one. The last but not the least will be the capability that will allow the users to search for their favorite Stickers by just keying in the relevant word, making communicating with speakers quick and reliable.

Courtesy: (phoneworld.com.pk)

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Climate Change affects earth’s groundwater reserves

LONDON: Climate change affects Earth”s groundwater reserves, which may not meet the water demand of the population in the future, according to a study published on specialized digital sites.

The experts, from the University of Cardiff in the United Kingdom, assure that the regions most affected by global warming and with reduced rainfall may be the first to suffer this phenomenon, which may manifest itself a century late.

Mark Cuthbert, leader of the research, noted that ‘only half of the earth’s groundwater currents respond within the 100-year human time scale’.

According to Cuthbert, it was shown that ‘underground systems take much longer to respond to climate change than surface water’.

The researcher pointed out that this ‘long legacy’ can be considered as ‘an environmental time bomb’ given that ‘any impact of climate change at this time on the replenishment of groundwater’ will manifest its consequences with full force for rivers and rivers. wetlands ‘a long time later’

Cuthbert said that ‘groundwater is out of sight and does not receive much attention’, and yet more than two billion people currently depend on this resource for both its consumption and for agricultural irrigation.

It is essential that governments take into account, when developing water use policies and strategies to adapt to climate change, these potential long-term ecological consequences.

The reserves of subterranean aquifers are stored in the soil and between rocks below the surface, it feed on rainwater to maintain their volume.

Courtesy: (plenglish.com)

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Xiaomi introduces first double folding phone

Monitoring Desk

BEIJING: Xiaomi’s folding phone has been revealed in a teaser video from the company. Xiaomi co-founder and President Lin Bin has posted a nearly minute-long video to Weibo today, detailing the double folding phone. Both sides of the device can be folded backwards to transform it from a tablet form factor into more of a compact phone. Unlike other foldable phones we’ve seen recently, this certainly looks a more practical use for the technology.

Xiaomi doesn’t provide many details about its foldable phone, but Bin reveals the device in the video is simply an engineering model. Bin does note Xiaomi has conquered “a series of technical problems such as flexible folding screen technology, four-wheel drive folding shaft technology, flexible cover technology, and MIUI adaptation.” Xiaomi appears to have adapted its MIUI software for the foldable phone, and a video is seen playing on the device before it converts from tablet to phone mode.

Xiaomi’s folding phone leaked earlier this month, and it’s set to compete against devices like Samsung’s folding phone prototype and Chinese company Royole’s folding device. Huawei is also reportedly planning to launch a foldable device, and Lenovo has previously teased that it was working on bendable phones. Xiaomi hasn’t revealed when we’ll learn more details about its foldable phone, but given Mobile World Congress starts in a month we’re likely to hear a lot more about foldable devices very soon.

Courtesy: (theverge.com)

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Starbucks delivered to your desk at work? How Uber eats’​ Starbucks deal changes everything

Joshua Fruhlinger

Uber Eats, the food delivery arm of the ridesharing company Uber ($UBER), launched delivery services for all Starbucks ($NASDAQ:SBUX) in San Francisco after a successful test of the service in Miami. Now that its Starbucks delivery service is off the ground, it plans to expand to Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Washington D.C., and Boston all within the next weeks.

The deal with Starbucks adds about 3,500 Uber Eats-eligible locations in six massive hubs for American business. Specifically, Uber Eats is targeting busy workers who are too busy (or too cold) to run out and grab a coffee, and then have to buy a scone, sandwich, or something else to make that $2.49 booking fee more of an afterthought than half the bill.

Starbucks locations in these cities are nearly everywhere one would have to work. In Washington D.C., there are 5 Starbucks on K Street, as well as two right near Capitol Hill.

In San Francisco, there are plenty of Starbucks baristas frothing it up in the Financial District.

And, in Manhattan, there is a Starbucks on virtually every corner.

In the case of Boston, Starbucks delivery via Uber Eats will soon be available to more than 100,000 college students across 40+ colleges, as well as their professors and other staff.

According to the writer of this piece, when Boston freezes over and thousands of college students are in their dorm rooms studying or “studying,” they aren’t going to step outside to grab that Caramel Macchiato unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e. on the way to class). This is especially the case at Boston University, which has 11 Starbucks in and around the city campus and has the largest student enrollment in the city.

Furthermore, according to executives at the company (as reported by CNBC), Uber Eats excels in dense urban areas with low delivery fees and tend to spend more on food than in stores. Translation? These cities that Uber Eats targeted are prime not only for the company itself, but also potentially Starbucks, who would be more than happy to move breakfast sandwich and cake pop inventory around.

On paper, the deal looks like a home run for Uber Eats as it continues to expand globally. Meanwhile, parent company Uber waits patiently for the U.S. government to reopen so it can file an IPO.

What this gives Uber Eats in the delivery wars

Despite having an incredible international presence, Uber Eats’ portfolio in America is lacking compared to competitors. According to our December study of 10 food delivery companies, Uber Eats had 62,075 places to order from in America, while Grubhub and DoorDash claimed over 100,000 locations each.

Adding 3,500 Starbucks locations doesn’t put too much of a dent into its competitors, but should this roll-out succeed, Uber Eats could be looking at an additional 11,000 (approximately) locations where it can deliver from. That would expand its footprint to the size of GrubHub, whose Seamless and traditional GrubHub services have plenty of overlap.

Courtesy: (linkedin.com)

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The iPhone is reportedly going OLED-only in 2020

Brian Heater

CALIFORNIA: Apple could drop LCDs from the iPhone line next year, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. That interesting — if not altogether surprising — revelation is buried in a piece about a Japan supplier’s struggles in the wake of disappointing iPhone XR sales.

The news, which comes courtesy of people familiar with the matter, makes sense, as prices for the display technology should drop, making it more attainable for more people. Whether Apple is giving up on the budget take on its flagship remains to be seen, but the XR appears not to have gotten the reception the company was banking on.

Apple has downplayed any disappointment, noting that the cheaper handset (starting at $250 less than the XS) has been the “most popular iPhone” since going on sale in October. But handset sales are ebbing across the board — a phenomenon that’s hardly specific to Apple.

Besides, moving to a higher-end technology across the board is just part of the inevitable march of progress, though the company is still expected to release an LCD-sporting successor to the XR later this year. A number of competitors, meanwhile, will be dipping their toes into the foldable display waters in 2019, though that technology isn’t expected to go fully mainstream any time soon.

2020 will also reportedly be the year Apple makes the move to a 5G iPhone.

Courtesy: (techcrunch.com)

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The Dawn of a New Big Tech Regulatory Era?

Shelly Palmer

CALIFORNIA: At the ShellyPalmer Innovation Series Breakfast at CES 2018, I had a Socratic discussion about the influence of the big technology platforms and other emerging technologies on our lives and the need for responsible innovation with David Sapin, US Risk & Regulatory Leader, PwC. We also talked about the growing “techlash” buzz for more industry regulation and, while we agreed that there was a need for formal approach around some aspects of the industry, we felt that the best approach at the time might be an industry self-regulatory approach to responsible innovation (see A Case for Responsible Innovation).

Our perspective was that the industry was in the best position to develop and enforce responsible innovation standards that would address growing concerns from the public and policy makers about the influence of big tech and emerging tech but would not unnecessarily restrain the innovation that has been the trademark of the industry. We received quite a bit of positive feedback and people were interested in what a self-regulatory approach would look like and whether it might just work. Then the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica news broke.

David and I, along with our friend and colleague Rob Mesirow, Principal, PwC Connected Solutions, have spent some quality time discussing Big Tech regulation — and our thinking has evolved.

The breaking of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica story in March 2018 may be the moment where we all realized that some level of big tech platform regulation is needed. The story (and its aftermath of hearings etc.) set in motion a year that has brought even more attention to the influence of technology and the big tech platforms on our lives and new calls to think about how or whether we “regulate” the industry. Over the rest of 2018 we saw the regulatory approach move into full swing on the privacy front. While not a reaction to the Facebook situation, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in May and then California passed its own privacy legislation in June, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). We have also seen large global tech companies and others implement new policies, procedures and controls to address growing concerns of consumers and policy makers alike on issues ranging from location tracking, facial recognition to hate speech. Finally, towards the end of the year we began to see a divergence within the industry, as some of the big tech players – such as Apple – calling for regulation, while others are less enthusiastic.

So, where do we go from here on some of the key big tech regulatory issues? The privacy regulatory train has clearly left the station. GDPR has set the standard and most global companies have already modified their data policies, procedures and practices to ensure compliance – at least with regard to their EU customers and employees’ data. The passing of the CCPA will extend the scope of customers covered by comprehensive privacy legislation and may trigger similar legislative action by other states, which would further increase the calls for federal privacy legislation in the US to have a consistent privacy legal framework.

We are often reminded that our apps are free because “we are the product” and perhaps as long as the only result is some targeted ads or a better understanding of retail traffic patterns there is no need for concern or regulatory attention. Privacy legislation such as GDPR and CCPA should provide individuals with more transparency – and more choice – about how their data is used. Anonymized data, however, is not subject to the privacy protections provided under GDPR and CCPA. As more and more data is being collected to power advances in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (see PwC AI predictions), questions are being asked about whether data in the presence of so much other data can ever truly be anonymous. If that is true, will consumers really have the protections they think they do under privacy laws? Will we start to see increasing pressure from policymakers to further limit the amount and types of consumer data that are being collected and how that data is being used? It would seem to be the next step in the evolution of data protection and ethical data use.

The one question we often get is whether we think we will see some regulation of the big tech platforms in 2019. While there is “buzz” in Washington calling for some level of regulation, it will likely be difficult to build a congressional consensus on what big tech regulation should look like. As with privacy, the states may once again step in (as California did with net neutrality) to address specific concerns. The biggest pressure placed on the tech platforms will likely come from their users who will demand changes to their policies. For now, the “do it yourself” approach to addressing these issues will continue to be the approach of choice. There has also been some talk of using an antitrust argument to “break up” some of the biggest companies, but for the most part the big tech companies continue to provide their customers with more convenience at a lower cost and policy makers will be hesitant to interfere with that business to customer relationship.

The new normal for the big tech regulatory environment

While they may not face the spectre of an onerous regulatory environment in the near future, the big tech companies do understand the policy landscape has changed. They have to dig into their business processes, find the root cause of their problems, fix them, and demonstrate their change to (re)build public trust. In the current environment, these companies have started moving away from the old position of self-regulation to actively seeking to work with lawmakers in Europe and the US.

Similarly, companies deploying emerging technologies such as geolocation, facial recognition and AI, need to understand that their business model is changing. Traditional brick and mortar companies are now becoming data companies and need to build in a different type of analysis into their product development process and their strategic decision making. They need to think ahead about how these new technologies might do harm to their customers and customer relationships and address those concerns in the product design process.

We may not quite be at the dawn of a new regulatory era for big technology, but times have definitely changed. It is more important than ever for companies to both lead from the front on responsible innovation and build consensus with policy makers on the appropriate path forward. If companies do not find the right balance in that approach, there may be no choice but for policy makers to step in and take the lead. That may not be the best answer for big tech – or for us.

Courtesy: (shellypalmer.com)

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WhatsApp limits message-forwarding to counter fake news

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: WhatsApp is limiting all its members to forwarding any single message up to five times in an effort to tackle the spread of false information on the platform, reported BBC.

The Facebook-owned business had already introduced the policy in India six months ago.

The move followed a number of mob lynchings that were blamed on fake reports spread via the service.

Until now, users elsewhere could forward messages up to 20 times.

The update to the app’s rules was announced at an event in Jakarta, Indonesia. The country is holding its general election in April.

Reports in the Indian press state that a company blog – that has not been shared elsewhere yet – said the firm had made its decision after “carefully” evaluating the results of its half-year-long test in the country.

“The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world,” it added.

Up to 256 users can be enrolled in a WhatsApp group.

So, theoretically, a single user can now only forward a message up to 1,280 other individuals rather than the 5,120 people figure that had been possible previously.

The restriction comes at a time WhatsApp and Facebook’s other services are under scrutiny for their role in the spread of propaganda and other untruths online.

Last week, Facebook announced it had removed 500 pages and accounts allegedly involved in peddling fake news in Central Europe, Ukraine and other Eastern European nations.

It also recently announced that it had employed a UK-fact-checking service to flag content on its main platform.

However, the use of end-to-end encryption by WhatsApp means its messages can only be read by their senders and recipients, limiting the firm’s ability to spot false reports.

But at the end of last year, the Indian press reported that the government was considering a change to the law that would force Facebook to police WhatsApp for “unlawful” content. This would challenge its use of encryption technology.

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7 pct of enterprises use robots in 2018: EU data

ANKARA (AA): Across Europe, industrial or service robots were used in the 7 percent of enterprises employing at least ten people in 2018, statistics office of the EU said on Monday.

“Large enterprises use robots much more (25% of enterprises employing 250 persons or more) than medium enterprises (12 percent of enterprises employing 50 to 249 persons),” Eurostat said.

The data revealed that 5 percent of the small enterprises — employing 10 to 49 people — used robots last year.

The largest share of enterprises using industrial or service robots was recorded in Spain with 11 percent, according to the official figures. Spain was followed by Denmark and Finland with 10 percent each, and Italy with 9 percent. “The lowest shares were noted in Cyprus [1 percent], Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Hungary and Romania (all 3 percent),” Eurostat said.

The statistics office said industrial robots — more common than service robots — were most frequently used in the manufacturing sector with 16 percent, while service robots were mainly used in manufacturing and in retail trade, both 4 percent.

“Enterprises use service robots mainly for warehouse management systems (44 percent of enterprises that used service robots), followed by transportation of people or goods (22 percent), cleaning or waste disposal tasks, as well as assembly works (21 percent each).”

Eurostat noted that robots consist of respective elements — mechanical structure, sensors, computer, control unit — and can be classified into industrial and service robots by the purpose of use.

“While industrial robots are mainly used in industrial automation and perform their tasks in clearly structured environments with external safeguards, service robots have a certain level of autonomy and the ability to operate in complex environments that may require interaction with persons, objects or other devices,” it said.

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China’s tropical island, Hainan, wants to be the top spot for foreign tech startups

Rami Blachman

HAINAN: China’s President Xi Jinping is taking big steps to improve the country’s economy as the trade war with the U.S. continues. In November, he enacted a number of measures that will expand imports and liberalize key sectors in the economy, predicting that China’s imports of goods and services will exceed $40 trillion in the next 15 years.

Innovation is at the core of Xi’s strategy to advance the “China Dream” of national rejuvenation, and the country’s policymakers are taking steps to attract foreign innovators to China to bolster the country’s efforts to cement its position as the global tech power to watch. In the face of increased economic pressure from the U.S., China recently launched an initiative to build an innovation community in Hainan.

Hainan, in southern China, is a tropical island often dubbed the “Hawaii of China.” Thirty years after formally becoming a province, with strong tailwind from central government, Hainan is emerging from obscurity under the government’s plan to make it a magnet for global techies and digital nomads.

In late December, Hainan’s provincial capital, Haikou, held a three-day inauguration event for a new startup incubation program. A group of foreign “China hands” descended on the island to participate in the event that brought together 20 startup founders and a panel of a dozen investment managers, mentors and entrepreneurs from the US, Europe, Australia, India, and the Middle East. Alongside local R&D centers run by China’s tech titans Alibaba, iQiyi Mobike, and by Microsoft, the new Fuxing incubator is being promoted by its managers and officials as an international go-to place for those who have their sights set on the Chinese market.

In April, Xi announced at the Boao Forum, Asia’s Davos, the launch of a special economic zone and a free port in Hainan as a part of his signature Belt and Road Initiative. Hainan, one of the poorest provinces in China, is intended to “serve as window on reform [and] promote the formation of a new pattern of opening up.” The speech was a catalyst, and since then Hainan government officials have been scrambling to execute on the president’s vision.

“Hainan has been given the green light to take reform further and deeper than ever before. They have the budget from central government to make it happen,” said Nishtha Mehta, a panel moderator at the Haikou event and an Indian national who lives in Shanghai and coaches corporate innovation teams.

Those more familiar with China are reminded of Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of China’s economic reform and modernization and his famous “Southern Tour” in 1992 that preceded the transformation of Shenzhen from a tiny fishing village into a vast tech hub of nearly 12 million.

With a view to history, Hainan’s leaders are promoting an ambitious vision for the island-province. “Digital disruptors will be the catalysts for Hainan to evolve into the epicenter of a tech ecosystem that could one day even rival that of Shenzhen,” said Peter Yang, cofounder of PreShares, a VC firm and manager of the Haikou Fuxing incubator.

“We are not newcomers to high-profile conferences in China,” said Matthieu Bodin, general manager of Tech Stars, a US-based accelerator, in China. “But success ultimately hinges on the ability to implement the grand plans. My impression is that they are serious about Hainan.”

President Xi’s designs for Hainan make this a potential game changer for the island province, which will resonate in China as a whole. Startup founders from Europe and Asia that have chosen China as the base for their startups are coming to Hainan in an effort to build out their customer base and find new engines of growth.

One foreign entrepreneur I came across at the Hainan “entrepreneurship festival” was WikiFactory cofounder Nicolai Peitersen, who had come down from Chengdu, where his company is headquartered. Peitersen is Danish, and he has three European cofounders. Their startup uses artificial intelligence to enable makers of physical components and hardware anywhere in the world to source a suitable manufacturer in China, then use the company’s solution for design and production.

WikiFactory, established in 2015, has received $1.6 million to date from angel investors. In 2019 Peitersen and his partners plan to raise at least part of a $10 million A round in RMB to finance their main operation in Shenzhen. When asked to explain the choices he made, Peitersen says that China is the manufacturing arm of the world. “It leads the global push for smart manufacturing. Chengdu offers a combination of pleasant lifestyle and a rich talent pool.” But Peitersen and his team are betting that they can exponentially grow their cross border ecommerce services from the digital free trade zone and port in Hainan.

I also came across Milad Nouri, a software engineer and a native of Nantes, France, at the Haikou event. Nouri has been living and working in China for 13 years, picked — together with four cofounders from India, China and France — Hangzhou as the base for their startup, YooSourcing. Hangzhou, an emerging tech dynamo 150 miles southwest of Shanghai on the Yangtze River Delta, is home to ecommerce giant Alibaba and 13 out of 120 unicorns in the Greater China region, according to Hurun Research Institute, a Shanghai-based research firm.

Like Peitersen in Chengdu, Nouri and his partners in Hangzhou are interested in the prospects Hainan can offer their business. Nouri’s YooSourcing service introduces tools such as crowd verification, matchmaking driven by machine learning, and instant messaging to help optimize the match between wholesale buyers and sellers.

Why Hangzhou? “Connecting with Chinese entrepreneurs is easier here than in other big cities like Shanghai,” said Nouri. “And also for the quality of life.”

The China Daily, a newspaper that reflects the government line, reported earlier this week that Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba, and Pony Ma, chairman and CEO of Tencent, China’s two largest tech titans, were elected as chairman and vice chairman of an advisory council for the Hainan provincial government. This is a political act that with high certainty was beckoned from the highest echelons.

China is pushing Hainan front and center and reinforcing this outlier with its heavy hitters, but pomp and fanfare alone will not be enough. For success there needs to be substance, and we will only see substance if foreign startup founders buy into the story and feel that Hainan levels the playing field for them. It will certainly be an interesting development to watch in the near future.

Courtesy: (venturebeat.com)