Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, a Chinese multinational technology company, is helping foreign universities skirt China’s stringent internet controls to keep classes going for their students in mainland Chinese. By this move, the company is targeting to benefit by seizing a new business opportunity offered by the novel coronavirus.
Pandemic has forced many Chinese students to return home as the campuses shut down. To further add to the problem, they also have difficulties watching live-streamed tutorials or accessing class materials due to the Great Firewall. It not only blocks websites that are deemed sensitive by the government but also load slowly while accessing sites based overseas.
Soon after the virus started spreading, Alibaba’s cloud division pitched the idea to access the network that can act as a bridge between mainland’s students and universities’ portals to member institutions.
Alibaba’s unique Cloud proposition is the biggest cloud service provider in China. The revenue of Alibaba’s this unit is relatively small to its staple e-commerce business. Despite this, the unit has been aggressively promoting its plans to spend $28 billion on next-generation data centers over three years.
Matthew Ball, Analyst at Canalys, said “is a good initiative to gain more spending among these organizations that will increasingly offer a blend of online and offline course content.” In 2018, the latest Statista data showed that the total count of Chinese students abroad was nearly 662,100 which indicated the market potential.
Alibaba is intensively focusing on winning the support of foreign institutions as the diplomatic relations between China and the West deteriorate over several issues including trade, Hong Kong security, virus prevention, and the U.S. campaign to ban Huawei from next-generation telecommunications networks.
Alibaba Cloud said “During the challenging time of the coronavirus, cloud-based technologies play an important role to help people adapt to the new normal. Our technology offers a solution to meet an important need for students to continue with their studies.” Adding “This should not be mixed with any political affairs.”