Wang Yu Xia is living proof of the power of fixed broadband, ICT and social media to change lives though internet access to a connected world. Before moving to China's capital Beijing from her native province of Gansu in 2004, she knew nothing about the internet. Now she is a keen online gamer with a large network of offline friends made on the net. She says her life has been transformed.
As the Friday evening light fades over Beijing's Chaoyang District, Yu Xia, a 26-year-old live-in domestic helper, says goodnight to her employer’s three small children and joins evening diners drifting into one of the city’s countless sidewalk grills.
She takes a table and waits for a friend she met through an online game. They stay in contact through QQ, a popular desktop and mobile instant messaging application that enables users to create groups and develop social networks.
Yu Xia had never heard of QQ, or online communities for that matter, before her move to Beijing from the western province of Gansu, one of China's poorest. Like many people migrating to major cities, she was a stranger in a strange world.
"I didn’t know anybody when I first came to Beijing," Yu Xia says. "I didn’t know anything about computers, or the internet." She was working in her second domestic job in Beijing when the laptops scattered around the house drew her curiosity. Yu Xia's employer knew she was bored and encouraged her to explore the internet.
Up to this point, her closest social contact was with pre-school-aged children and she felt she was missing out on the excitement of life in the city as a young woman.
"I was sort of depressed. Even though there are people from my province in Beijing, it's very difficult to connect with them."
But on the internet Yu Xia soon caught the gaming bug, and discovered a way to make friends via the fixed broadband connection in the home.
These personal connections quickly led to offline socializing. Now she and several dozen of her friends regularly get together for dinner parties, picnics, trips to tourist sites and, of course, playing games.
Like almost 70 percent of her peers Yu Xia plays video games every day. Chinese youths lead the world in the amount of time they spend playing online games – a significant amount via fixed broadband connections. A 2010 report by Ericsson ConsumerLab, entitled Chinese Consumer Trends in a Global Perspective, found that daily internet usage is a way of life for the vast majority of China’s urban youth. They are using information and communications technology to manage – and enjoy – life in an increasingly urbanized economy.
Cecilia Atterwall, head of Ericsson ConsumerLab, says: "Yu Xia's story is reflective of what is happening in China. There is rapid urbanization driven by the personal ambitions of people like Yu Xia, moving to the city to make a better living."
Yu Xia agrees. "It's hard to meet people here, and because of the nature of my work, I don’t get out much," she says. "But with the internet, I'm always meeting new people. I would do anything to maintain internet access. I can’t stop using it."
QQ is a free instant messaging service based in China, with more than 100 million accounts. It has QQ Chinese, QQ Simplified Chinese, and QQ International versions.
IP and Transport
Ericsson ConsumerLab report: Chinese Consumer Trends in a Global (pdf)
Report highlights China's world of difference
Ericsson article: Asia-Pacific key to 50 billion connected devices