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CIO/CTO Update: Article

Chinese Government Sets Friendly Benchmark with Cloud Computing

Satisfaction Survey Offered at Immigration Windows

Upon arrival at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, I marched through the gleaming international terminal; first stop, immigration.

I was there to chair a Cloud Computing conference. I had procured my visa with a week to spare, and anticipated no problems when it became my turn to face the immigration clerk, on my way to retrieve my bag.

I dutifully got into the "Foreigners" line, and heard German being spoken for the first time since I'd arrived in Asia a couple of years ago. I live in Manila, and am continually perturbed at the lack of international business people in a place that should be full of them (more on that in a different story).

I snapped out of my Teutonic daydream as I approached the yellow line. Only a few more people in front of me. At that point, I noticed that most people were slapping a button on a small device next to the window, just as they were clearing immigration. I made a note to myself not to forget to do whatever this was, because I certainly didn't want any trouble from the Commies.

Then it was my turn.

"Take your hat off, please, sir." Oh yes, I always forget that, vain as I am about a hairline that I've lacked for two decades now.

"Please look into the camera, sir." There was a small video screen to my left, with a tiny cam embedded into it. I flashed my most winsome grin, to the immigration officer's satisfaction. Whomp! whomp! My passport and ticket were stamped and I was officially in China.

But wait, don't forget that small device next to the window. What was it, anyway? The immigration officer didn't mention it. So I paused a sec, and took a look at it.

At that point, I was flooded with pleasant emotion and gleeful surprise the likes of which I hadn't experienced since the Packers last won the Super Bowl in 1997.

The device was an instant satisfaction survey machine. It had five buttons, three in green, and two in red, to allow people to indicate where they were "highly satisfied," "satisfied," etc. down to "very disappointed" with their experience at the immigration window!

Pleasant emotion and gleeful surprise--and absolute, gobsmacked confusion. A pro-active, easy-to-use, instant survey of customer satisfaction--at a Chinese immigration window???

I suppressed the urge to whip out my camera and take a picture of it. The good vibes might have evaporated in a Shanghai Minute had I done this. So you have to either trust me that this is true, or verify if you have experienced this as well.

The irony is, I can't imagine such a helpful, friendly device at any immigration window in the United States. God forbid that our government would actually give two bits about whether anyone had a good experience entering the country or not (if for no other reason than 99.9% of people do not).

I don't know how much Cloud Computing is integrated into this little miracle device. I assume there's a great data collector in the sky somewhere, with a virtualized government server adapting to the data load (which in reality, is probably not much), and providing real-time reports to some other Chinese bureaucrat somewhere. I would like to know, to be sure. I'll see what I can find out.

Everyone in the US knows that China is starting to dominate our economy. The government holds at least $750 billion in debt. The annual trade deficit is around $250 billion (an amount that is deducted directly from the US GDP and directly added to that of China). Those of you fortunate enough to travel on business to the country know of its magnificent new airports, superior local transit systems, and near-awe inspiring architecture, whether in the skyline of Shanghai or the sheer heft and weight of Beijing.

Now, China seems to be leading the way in providing customer service and innovative use of technology.

I've never been a big zero-sum game person. I don't necessarily see every Chinese gain as an American loss. But we all do need to realize that the world remains a hard place and that American hegemony, exceptionalism, leadership, whatever you want to call it, is not a divine right and is not a guarantee.

The notion that we can learn from China--particularly in the area of customer service--was an absurd notion as recently as 15 years ago. No longer absurd today, but as real and tangible as the American Buicks the Chinese love to buy. It's still a two-way street, but it really is time for the US to wake up and smell the green tea.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.