China’s State Council has approved a project designed to improve broadband services in rural areas, in turn helping to bridge the digital divide.
The government will spend an estimated 140 billion yuan ($22.05 billion) to provide broadband access to 50,000 more villages by 2020, state-owned news agency Xinhua reported.
In total the project aims to provide upgraded services to 30 million rural households by this time. The council predicts that by 2020 around 98% of China’s rural population will have access to the internet.
The council agreed that strengthening telecom services in rural areas will help attract investment and fuel development of the areas.
It will also help expand e-commerce in rural areas, stimulating consumption and providing benefits to farmers. To help guarantee this, the government plans to conduct pilot e-commerce village projects in selected poor areas.
Narrowing the digital divide between urban and rural China is a key priority of the government’s broadband expansion plans.
In May, the government revealed plans to spend more than 1.1 trillion yuan ($173.3 billion) on fixed broadband and 4G infrastructure expansion over the next three years.
The State Council is also undergoing the process of opening up China’s fixed broadband market to private competition.