A cloud computing centre in Tibet’s Lhasa is set to become China’s gateway to collect data from South Asian countries like Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh by 2021, an official media report said on Thursday, adding that once completed, the hub will meet the data storage needs of client countries.
The ambitious but the fairly low-key project will provide remote services to South Asian countries in sectors like distance learning, autonomous driving and data backup.
This is a rare example of China’s potential digital influence and impact on South Asian countries where it is already pumping in billions in physical infrastructure.
It means that a government-backed – though privately-owned – Chinese company will soon have access to huge amounts of digital data from across densely populated South Asian countries.
The sprawling computing campus is coming up in a high-tech zone in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), at a cost of less than $2 billion, official Xinhua news agency said in a report on Thursday. The TAR has a long and disputed boundary with India.
The data centre covers an area of more than 645,000 metres.
The new centre is part of the Chinese information technology ministry’s plan to make Lhasa the communication and information hub for South Asia.
“After the completion of phase one, the data centre will have 10,000 machine cabinets and an annual revenue of 1.5 billion yuan ( $223.5 million), meeting the data storage needs of key clients in the country and in South Asia,” the Xinhua report said.
Located at nearly 10,000 feet, the centre, operated by private technology firm Ningsuan Technologies, is the highest cloud computing centre in the world.
Wang Jun, Ningsuan’s vice president and chief marketing officer, was quoted as saying that as Lhasa pushes forward with the construction of a regional bureau for stepping up international communications services, Tibet will become a big-data industrial base.
The firm, with the support of the Chinese government, is seeking cooperation with south Asian countries under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping’s legacy project that seeks to connect China with the rest of Asia and beyond through infrastructure projects – including digital ones.
While India has refused to join the BRI because of sovereignty issues, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh are part of it.
As an international offshore data centre in Lhasa, the “facility has high reliability, cost-effectiveness and energy-saving ability, which are competitive factors when competing with data centres in other provinces or regions in China,” Hu Xiao, general manager of Ningsuan Technologies, had told Chinese state media in June, in a rare report on the project.