Mr. Li has always believed that knowledge can change fate, and that talented people hold the key to progress and development. Responding to China’s plan to kick-start the development of the western regions, the Li Ka-shing Foundation and Mr. Li Ka-shing’s Group companies Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa have announced a HK$300 million donation to support education and health care development in western China. The Foundation will also collaborate with the Ministry of Education to cultivate local talent and to provide the necessary infrastructure that will facilitate the region’s development.
Mr. Li knows very well that the success of a major program such as this relies on the efforts of many talented people. Economic progress in the vast western region has been disparate at best. To gain a deeper understanding of the situation, Mr. Li led a team of Foundation staff on a visit to the region. Accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Education, Mr. Li and his team visited many cities and provinces, including Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, Chongqing, Guizhou, and Guangxi, meeting with officials of local governments and universities to discuss how best to utilize educational resources, cultivate talent, and bring in new technologies.
Mr. Li said, “It is difficult for city-dwellers like us to fully appreciate the awe of nature and the harsh conditions it can sometimes conjure up. As we traveled southward from Xinjiang, I realized what a monumental task it will be to transform this region. Mineral deposits are often located in remote areas. There are vast regions of arid land interspersed with densely populated cities. A strong feeling came over me during this trip. To overcome geographic disadvantages and a lack of natural resources, fostering talented people will be pivotal. And education holds the key. If you have good people, you can find the best way to utilize natural resources. If you have good people, you can overcome the lack of natural resources. People create progress and progress leads to a better quality of life.”
After his 9-day visit, Mr. Li pledged to support a number of major projects. The two most far-reaching projects are the Inter-college Network and Satellite Transmission Advance Network for Distance-learning.
This project provides the basic information technology infrastructure for universities in the western region, upgrades their technology facilities, builds a training center, and also interconnects 12 universities through a central server, giving them access to the China Education and Research Network (CERNET). This interconnection will enable universities to access distance learning programs offered by China’s Education TV Network and enhance development of top IT talents.
These advanced facilities will allow students to access the Internet in open environments. Application solutions will also be installed to enhance the efficiency of international management and financial systems as well as to facilitate the digitization of library materials.
Satellite Transmission Advance Network for Distance-learning
Mr. Li believes that the nurturing of talents should not be confined to the tertiary level and that it is important to build a good foundation in primary and secondary schooling. This project aims to help raise the quality of teaching in primary and secondary schools by using satellite technology to deliver information to students in underdeveloped areas. These schools, located in mountainous villages, will each have a computer and a satellite dish installed to receive satellite television and multimedia programs from the nation’s education network. Along with facilities provided by the Ministry of Education, over 10,000 schools will be able to benefit within one year.
The project is aptly named Satellite Transmission Advance Network for Distance-learning, or STAND for short. People in remote and underdeveloped regions will be given the opportunity to “Stand on their own feet” through access to the latest information from around the world.
The Western Education Development Program covers 12 provinces in the region. During their 9-day visit, Mr. Li and his team met with many local government officials and visited a number of universities, medical colleges, village schools, and the China Disabled Person’s Federation Rehabilitation Center. They gained a better understanding of the situation and pledged to support many projects that provide better facilities for personnel training and medical development. Mr. Li realizes that in the 21st century, knowledge holds the key to everything from economic development, national prosperity, and cultural progress. Mr. Li hopes that through the Western Education Development Program, knowledge can be spread across deserts and over mountains to put power into the hands of the people.