• Andrew Collins

Chinese Nomads Join The Digital Age

Let’s face it. Social media is a big deal in China – even more so than other countries like the United States and Australia. If it’s a sign of a country that has well and truly come of age then China is one blushing debutante.

In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, scores of people use it to chat, share, work, campaign, learn and more. Recently, however, there’s a new use for social media outside of the big cities.

Nomads in north China’s Inner Mongolia are using social media to help them to run their farming communities. Applications such as Weibo and WeChat have revolutionized not only the lives of those in the big cities but also the lives of those living in yurts across the Mongolian countryside. With an area of over a million square kilometres, keeping track of livestock is no easy task. This is where social media comes in.

Lost livestock are easier to track by communicating with other farmers through social media rather than combing vast amounts of countryside. Local governments in the area are getting in on the act too, using social media to communicate with local farmers and keep them up to date on local events and legislation changes.

Farmers can buy and sell livestock without seeking out retailers – they let others come to them. By sharing ‘moments’ on WeChat, business is more efficient and dynamic. All of this despite the fact that there are no Mongolian input keyboards – farmers simply take photos of hand written notes and share them with others.

Even retailers like Alibaba are getting in on the act, offering farmers in regional areas like Inner Mongolia the opportunity to buy items they would normally have to trek to the bigger towns or cities to buy. Farmers can also sell the goods they produce on Alibaba – something almost inconceivable not that long ago.

Social engagement is social media’s main drive, particularly in the big cities. However, the digital sphere only continues to grow, often in new and interesting ways – the integration of the regional farming community into the digital age is just one of these. Making lives easier and more efficient for these farmers is one of the many practical uses for social media and surely, that can only be a good thing.

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