Shanxi is one of China’s hardest-hit provinces. One hospital has installed the system. Six others are expected to have their systems in place within a few days. Huawei’s videoconferencing systems have also been installed in hospitals in Hong Kong. The systems let patients talk with family members without face-to-face contact. Some hospitals in Beijing and Inner Mongolia are considering installing such systems, Huawei officials said. “Videoconferencing systems are playing an increasingly important role during the epidemic,” a company spokesperson said.
Countless people nervous about shopping in high-traffic stores and malls are making purchases online. Many people are spending the traditional, week-long Labour Day holiday – a peak travel period – inside their homes after the cancellations of their tours. They have been stocking up on books and audio and video products – from online distributors – to avoid boredom during the holiday. An increasing number of people are using SARS as an excuse to play Internet games and/or spend time in online chatrooms. Spreading rumours
While the Internet and mobile messaging make it easier to share SARS information, they also help create problems. “I used to receive SARS information from my friends. But I discovered numerous apparent hoaxes, and sometimes I was unable to tell the truth from the fiction,” Xiao said. She has received text messages that suggested authorities planned to close Beijing. Government officials have dismissed such rumours. Some people have posted SARS-related hoaxes on the Internet, which sparked panic in some areas. Media reports indicate accused online swindlers have been detained in Beijing and Guangdong Province.
Regulators should be closely monitoring the Internet for fake SARS information, especially at this time, when the public is becoming increasingly sensitive, some industry observers suggest. Chinese authorities are facing calls to clamp down on fake information and harassing messages sent via mobile phones. Guangdong police detained a man in February who had sent an SMS about a ship that had sunk. The story wasn’t true. The man was held for spreading rumours. Police have also detained a man accused of sending sexually explicit messages to a woman.
Increasing problems resulting from the explosion of short-text messaging may lead to greater scrutiny by authorities and society, industry observers suggest. “It’s very likely that MMS (multimedia messaging service) will be used to send something erotic, such as pictures, unless the government or operators take action,” said Wang Yuquan, president of telecoms consulting firm Frost-&Sullivan (China). MMS enables users to send and receive pictures and audio clips via mobile phones that have built-in digital cameras. The explosion of mobile messaging has prompted some people to use the service as a front for prostitution.
That has resulted in public calls for a clampdown on such activities. Camera phones have been banned at many bathhouses, swimming pools and exhibition centres. However, it is more difficult to control the flood of short-text messages containing fake information. An official with the Ministry of Information Industry said the department does not plan in the immediate future to monitor the content of short messages sent by mobile phones. Monitoring the content of short messages would be a tough task, as it would be much more complicated than controlling content on the Internet.