Data-driven innovation and transformation in China

We completed the launch of our research report Big data in Chinese businesses this week with three fascinating events that highlighted different aspects of data-driven innovation and transformation in China.

Our lunchtime seminar enabled President Li of the Shanghai National Accounting Institute and Inspur CEO Sam Wang to share many real and fascinating examples of innovation with data in China today. These showed the extent of ambition to transform traditional sectors and lift people out of poverty through technology. The ‘running chicken’, for example, showed that new sources of data not only help farmers get credit and access to finance. By tagging the livestock and monitoring their treatment, farmers are also being educated and supported in building sustainable revenue streams (a healthy chicken should take 1 million steps over its lifetime, in case you are wondering!) See the pictures below of our speakers and SNAI and Inspur


Our evening panel discussion at the Mansion House focused on the skills, behaviours and attitudes that underpin successful digital businesses. As well as highlighting the need for a wide range of hard skills, including technology, localisation and innovation, the panel agreed on the need for a mindset that embraced change, and leadership that was fully committed to innovation. The ferocious pace of change in China raises particular challenges for educators to keep up, emphasising the need for close co-operation between educators and businesses, for example through case studies. See the picture of the full delegation with key ICAEW staff and the Lord Mayor, Charles Bowman, at Mansion House, and ICAEW CEO Michael Izza with President Li and Sam Wang.


Our third event, a roundtable in Brussels shown below, brought out the regulatory and cultural contrasts between China and Europe. It was suggested, for example, that Europe tends to approach new technology as a threat, and a risk to be managed or regulated. In contrast, China tends to approach it as an opportunity, encouraging rapid adoption. Cultural values around the use of personal data in particular are also different, giving the tech innovators in China much more scope for using data.

From a personal perspective, the project has been an eye-opening experience about what is happening in China. The sheer size, scale and pace of change is often just mind-blowing, and this will only increase as data-driven AI becomes more widespread. While there are great challenges for the accounting profession in staying relevant in this environment there are also tremendous opportunities to use all this data to improve business decisions. We look forward to further collaboration with our partners to develop more insight about these vital questions for the profession.        

If you want to find out more about the project, you can look at my earlier blogs.