By some measures, China’s Internet dwarfs that of the United States.
China has the world’s largest Internet population with 618 million users, well over twice as many as in the U.S. China also has the world’s largest online retailing industry, with e-commerce giants like Alibaba that sprawl far larger than the likes of eBay EBAY +1.08%.
But a new study by the McKinsey Global Institute argues that enterprise use of the Internet is still lagging in China and that the country’s businesses will need to catch up in this area to unlock economic gains.
“The Web is just beginning to penetrate many Chinese businesses – and the most sweeping changes are yet to come,” said the report, which was published this week.
MGI estimates that increased adoption of Web technologies like cloud computing and big data by China’s enterprises can add 0.3 to 1.0 percentage points to China’s GDP growth rate. By 2025, it could translate to annual economic gains of between 4 trillion yuan ($645.5 billion) and 14 trillion yuan, the research firm said.
China’s Internet has outpaced the U.S. among consumers. Alibaba’s online shopping platforms Taobao and Tmall have nearly twice as many active buyers than the U.S. site eBay. Jonathan Woetzel, one of the MGI study’s authors and a partner of the firm, told The Wall Street Journal that Chinese consumers spend more time shopping online and make more purchases than their American counterparts.
“China’s consumer generation has shown up at the same time as the Internet,” he said. “They have the money, but the offline shopping platforms like malls haven’t been built up fast enough to accommodate their expectations and needs. So more of them shop online.”
But when it comes to China’s businesses, they still lag in use of Web technologies, he says. The typical Chinese company spends 2% of revenue on IT, half of the international average, according to an MGI survey of CIOs. The enterprise cloud adoption rate in China is 21% compared to 55%-63% in the U.S.
Some sectors that stand the most to benefit in China include the financial services, health care and automotive industries, MGI says. Big data can help financial firms manage risks and reduce non-performing loans, while remote monitoring of chronic diseases can save costs for the health care industry.