Alibaba Group Recruits Users to Identify China’s Polluted Water

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China’s battle against pollution is getting some help from Jack Ma’s 500 million-strong army.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the e-commerce giant founded by Ma, is asking the public to participate in mapping water quality across China to raise environmental awareness. With testing kits sold through the company for as little as 65 yuan ($10), volunteers can measure pollutants in freshwater sources and upload the data to a digital map via smartphones.

The program, still in the startup stage, may prove to be a test of the government’s resolve in cleaning up the environment. While harnessing the world’s largest group of Internet users might help the cause, the data could also shine a critical light on the government’s performance in particular regions or cities.

“The message that it gets out to the Chinese people is, ‘Yes, you can measure this stuff, you have the right to find out what’s in your water, what’s in your air,’ and that you have the right to ask your government to do something about it,” said Judith Shapiro, author of “China’s Environmental Challenges.” “That’s a very powerful message.”

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