This Is How The Open Source Ecosystem Is Thriving And Advancing AI In China

As a creative and collaborative model, open-source is not only limited to the development of software technology, but also includes hardware design, microprocessor instructions, set architecture, specifications, data models, protocols, standards, and other technologies that the public can collaboratively create in an open mode. Open-source collaboration brings developers all over the world together to share the results with everyone. 

In the software era, open-source has promoted the harbour of innovative technological achievements on a global scale. With the advent of the AI era, large companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are continuing to open source to the end.

In a country as large as China, open-source technology is rapidly expanding and companies such as Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu are leading the race. To keep up with the global competition, China is carving its own strategy in open source so that it does not have to rely fully on the Western tech companies for collaborative innovation in AI and other technologies.

Open Source Developments In China

The development of artificial intelligence in China is a systematic arrangement planned by the state. The “New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” released in July 2017 pointed out that there are four principles for promoting artificial intelligence. One of the routes is to jointly build a systematic AI technology system under the principle of open source and openness.

In China, enterprises’ acceptance of open source technology has also increased year by year. Data shows that a large number of enterprises express their approval of open source technology. In 2019, domestic open-source projects saw a drastic rise in China, for instance, Baidu open-sourced China’s only deep learning platform PaddlePaddle that can compete with PyTorch, TensorFlow and other frameworks.

The Rise Of OpenI Community Platform 

The global AI race has prompted the Chinese science and technology community to hope to meet the technical demands through its own open-source community. The OpenIntelligence OpenI Platform, an open-source platform for community-led by Artificial Intelligence Industry Technology Innovation Strategic Alliance (AITISA), aims to achieve this. 

It helps industry, university and researchers to collaborate and build a shared open-source software and hardware super community. The alliance works in accordance with the relevant regulations of the Ministry of Science and Technology in China.

To leverage open source in AI, AITISA began working on a community where major Chinese AI scientists, AI engineers, programmers, and developers regularly discuss the construction and technical practice of AI. 

The goal is to bring together the academic, industrial and societal resource within China and from the globe to create the super open source community including open source software, open hardware and open data by organising a series of activities including events, research group, competitions, open-source training courses, to accelerate high-quality content, assembling leading talent, producing core technology breakthrough for the Chinese AI industry.

In December 2019, the OpenI community members held a two-day plenary meeting and special forum called OpenI/O 2019 at Shenzhen University Town, led by renowned Chinese academician Gao Wen, chairman of the OpenI Council. Rao Wen presented a report on adhering to the principle of open source and opening up and building a new generation of artificial intelligence. 

The main participants involved in the early stage for OpenI platform establishment are Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence; Peking University; Pengcheng laboratory; China’s National University of Defense Technology; Beihang University; Huawei; Baidu; Alibaba; Tencent; ByteDance; SenseTime DiDi MI and many global companies Iflytek; Microsoft; Intel; Nvidia; etc. They are also building a supercomputing AI framework for China’s domestic technological needs. 

Open Source License

The new generation of artificial intelligence industry technology innovation strategic alliance released the OpenI Qizhi license in March 2018. OpenI Open Source License V1.1 works to guarantee the operation of new generation AI open-source projects and communities with strong legal rules. It can be used in fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory use for AI projects by members around the world. The open-source license determines how the community uses AI innovation in the future, and whether there are constraints in commercialisation.

Pengcheng Labs and other core units are taking the lead in launching the platform.  At present, the largest computing power is provided by Pengcheng Lab. Through the open-source community incentive mechanism, developers can complete new projects on the OpenI platform, and realise the Chinese dream of a generation of artificial intelligence.

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Vishal Chawla
Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.

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