Shanying Leung (C), design director of Ant Financial, an Alibaba affiliate that runs Alipay, talks with attendees after he delivers a speech at an event during the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals in Austin of Texas, the United States, March 8, 2019. Several innovative online platforms initiated by China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group are turning charitable ideas into reality. And when they were introduced to designers worldwide attending the SXSW Conference and Festivals that opened Friday in Austin, Texas, the enthusiastic reception came as no surprise. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)
AUSTIN, the United States, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Pooling efforts of hundreds of millions in curbing carbon emission, helping schoolchildren in rural areas get textbooks, and saving craftsmanship on the cusp of extinction...
Several innovative online platforms initiated by China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group are turning these charitable ideas into reality. And when they were introduced to designers worldwide attending the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals that opened Friday in Austin, Texas, the enthusiastic reception came as no surprise.
Ant Forest, a scheme launched in August 2016 on China's leading online payment platform Alipay, now has 400 million users recording their green activities, such as walking to work and choosing electronic receipts over paper, said Shanying Leung, design director of Ant Financial, an Alibaba affiliate that runs Alipay.
As of May 2018, these users had helped reduce 3.05 million tons of carbon emission and with the help of Ant Financial, which translated users' green activities into green energy points and later into new trees in deserts, planted 55.22 million trees.
"The result is stunning. It is something we have never expected," Leung said while addressing an audience of more than 1,000 in a keynote speech.
Karl Krainer from Germany called Ant Forest "a great initiative" and "very smart program" to help people protect the environment.
"This has not been seen in other countries because this is more like people deciding to participate. In Europe, a lot of companies do corporate social responsibility projects, but is more of an advertising campaign," Krainer said.
On a similar platform, Ant Farm, users accumulate hearts of love by raising chicken on a virtual farm. By donating the hearts to charity events, users are making real donations as Alipay matches all the real costs, according to Leung.
Thus far, 180 million users have donated 2.2 billion hearts of love, which translated into 680,000 textbooks given to children in rural areas and 3,800 operations on children with heart diseases, he said.
More innovative programs are being developed, he added, including one that enables designers across China to pool wisdom to help those in need, for instance, poor artists in central China's Hubei province struggling to save bamboo craftsmanship that is on the verge of extinction.
German designer Angelo Cioffari said he found these programs "very interesting," as they "move more people to help... and technology together."
These projects may not be copied in other countries, but they can encourage other environment and charity-related activities, such as soliciting donation for food banks to help those in need of food, said Robert Meiklejohn from Britain.
When it becomes digital, many of these things can be done in a much easier and more efficient way, Meiklejohn added.
The 10-day SXSW, an annual event that can be traced back to 1987, is a conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences.
Around the year 2000, SXSW started to focus more on emerging technologies and has earned the reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies.