File photo shows a visitor tours a display center of the National Big Data Comprehensive Pilot Area in Southwest China's Guizhou province, May 22, 2019. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

A rags-to-riches story is always riveting, and when the main character is a province with 36 million people from 18 ethnic groups, the tale is all the more inspirational.

Guizhou province, once a byword for a landlocked location and backward development, has transformed into Western China's big data hub.

The growth rate for the province’s digital economy has been ranked first nationwide for five consecutive years… The digital economy, with big data as the key element, has become the new driver of Guizhou’s high-quality development

Ma Ningyu, head of Guizhou’s Big Data Development Administration Bureau

Few foresaw this development. Less than a decade ago, more than one in four Guizhou residents was classified as impoverished. The factors that constrained economic development for decades-mountainous terrain that obstructed interregional connectivity, distance from trade ports and a lack of local talent-seemed insurmountable.

The province's blend with big data has been a surprise. In recent years, high-technology projects and companies have tended to cluster in the southern and eastern coastal provinces that boast mature industry chains for high-level manufacturing, making them places college graduates and experienced professionals prefer to settle down.

To quench the thirst for new development opportunities, Guizhou has taken local conditions into account and discovered the value hidden in its "weaknesses".

Though situated in the southwestern hinterland, the province is far from major seismic belts at home and in adjacent regions. Few tremors of a magnitude greater than 3.1 have been reported in the province, thus lowering the earthquake risk to large data centers.

The rolling mountains and deep valleys, a typical headache for the construction of transportation networks, endow the province with a temperate climate that drives down the huge cooling costs shouldered by data companies. Guizhou's average annual temperature is 15 C.

Compared with other data storage hot spots prized for their cool climates, such as the Inner Mongolia autonomous region in the northwest, Guizhou enjoys good air quality that eliminates the need for air purifiers in giant server rooms.

Meanwhile, thanks to bountiful energy resources and accelerated construction of internet infrastructure, the province can cater to the demands of power-hungry data companies at a relatively low price.

Guizhou's industrial and economic development still lags behind the traditional economic powerhouses, but the province is leading the race in terms of using and parsing data to innovate and improve livelihoods.

From hailing trucks and selling agricultural produce, to predicting floods and offering government services, big data is being introduced to a growing number of sectors in Guizhou.

"The growth rate for the province's digital economy has been ranked first nationwide for five consecutive years," said Ma Ningyu, head of Guizhou's Big Data Development Administration Bureau.

"The digital economy, with big data as the key element, has become the new driver of Guizhou's high-quality development."

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