yellowriver.jpgThe Yellow River, China's second longest river, is today severely polluted. Undaunted, IBM hopes that it can get the Yellow River Delta's petrochemical plants and other industries to change the habits of a lifetime and embrace the idea of “harmonious development”.

To further this aim, IBM is working with Dongying municipal government to build the grandly-titled Yellow River Cloud Computing Centre.

Dongyin, located at the mouth of the Yellow River, is heavily dependent on the petrochemical industry but the government hopes to transform the city from a manufacturing centre into a “City of Digital Innovation” and the local economy into one based on services.

The cloud computing centre will provide software development and test resources for existing businesses and software start-up companies that want to build cloud-based resources. Cloud computing is one of the hottest topics in the IT industry today. By writing software that runs in the “cloud” – remotely over the internet — software start-ups are spared a lot of the challenges and investment facing traditional software development.

For their part, companies that want to use the cloud-based applications do not need to invest heavily in IT resources or software licences as they use the software, which is hosted remotely on servers, on a pay-as-you-go-basis.

I wish Dongying well in its ambitious project but it is difficult not to be sceptical of these type of announcements. Many rust-belt cities in the west have tried to achieve similar transformations but few have had much success.

That's because knowledge-based industries such as software development tend to cluster in locations where there are good universities and established hi-tech companies, rather than in green-field locations.

And it is not as if the fields around the Yellow River are particularly green… According to a recent report in the Guardian newspaper, a third of the Yellow River is now so polluted that its waters are now unfit for even industrial or agricultural use.

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