Alibaba has sealed an agreement with the China Communist Youth League, a government-sanctioned youth group, to train one million teenagers in running online businesses, according to state media outlet Xinhua News.
Alibaba’s finance arm, Ant Financial, has committed 1 billion yuan ($153 million USD) to fund the program, which will be tested in China’s southwest Guizhou province.
The project falls very squarely within the Chinese government’s ‘Internet Plus’ plan, a strategic commitment to disrupting traditional industries with internet-enabled technology, in an attempt to boost growth in the services sector.
According to statistics released by Xinhua, there are currently 780 specialized “stations” in rural areas which allow citizens without resources to buy and sell good using e-commerce platforms. Through a 10 billion yuan investment the government hopes to increase that number to over 100,000 by 2019.
China’s e-commerce giants have been seeking inroads to the country’s vast, untapped rural market for some time. Alibaba hosts their own specialized agricultural mall channel on e-commerce platform Taobao, where farmers can purchase everything from seeds to fertilizer and even tractors. They have also leveraged their cloud and data capabilities to offer data-driven planting guides.
JD.com, the Tencent-backed primary competitor to Alibaba, rolled out their own agricultural products store in August 2015. JD has also committed to developing wide-scale drone delivery in rural areas.