Who're you calling Web 2.0?

Zhejiang Nong Min Xin Xiang ("Zhejiang Province Farmer's Mailbox") is a new service promoted by the ever-progressive Zhejiang provincial government.  Agriculture workers are all encouraged to register, creating a typically-Chinese hierarchical system where each 'farmer' can send messages to the farmers in the same or lower level.

In the system, messages are sent as SMS messages (nearly free, courtesy of a partnership with China Mobile, another advantage of having a government-owned telecom; the government pays China Mobile 100,000 RMB annually) as well as email messages.  By "email" here, I mean that users can send a receive digital mail from other registered users only; these are not traditional internet email accounts.  1 million registered users, and when I saw, it had loads of activity.  Check out the listing of current items for-sale and sought-after (e.g. "10,000 jin of rice", white tea, mushrooms).

This is interesting because researchers don't often hear about rural computing projects in China.  There are language barriers for dissemination (compared to India, etc.), and things are often top-down, rather than organic.

We here at MSRA are doing more and more work in technologies for emerging market.  Currently, we're collaborating with MSR India - a first across these two labs.