At Alibaba, we believe acting in a socially responsible way is part of our business model. Since our founding, we have been highly committed to supporting and participating in charitable and socially responsible projects that align with our core values and mission, and to establishing a technology-driven charitable ecosystem to extend the benefits of our technological capabilities to the community at large.
Our major corporate social responsibility achievements and initiatives include:
The breadth of our ecosystem and the range of different types of service providers needed within it create substantial employment opportunities. In addition to providing direct business opportunities for merchants, our ecosystem has created new opportunities for service providers in logistics, marketing, consulting, operations outsourcing, training and other online and mobile commerce professions. AliResearch, our research division, estimates that our China retail marketplaces had contributed to the creation of over 36 million direct and indirect job opportunities in China, including people working directly for online storefronts, service providers to merchants and other businesses across the value chain.
With the power of new technology, our platforms have leveled the playing fields for businesses in many aspects, helping to foster an inclusive economy for everyone to thrive and prosper. In fiscal year 2018, approximately half of the annual active sellers on our China retail marketplaces were female.
As we expand to rural areas in China, we have created opportunities for rural residents to improve their standard of living by helping them sell agricultural produce to urban consumers and providing them with greater access to more varieties of high-quality goods and services through online shopping. As of March 31, 2018, our Rural Taobao program had established service centers in over 26,000 villages in China, approximately 8,000 of which were in state-designated impoverished counties.
We are committed to contributing to China's poverty relief initiatives. Apart from using our own resources, we also leverage our platform's reach to maximize our influence and our technological capabilities to increase the efficiency of these initiatives.
In December 2017, we announced plans to launch a RMB10 billion Alibaba Poverty Relief Program, as part of our ongoing efforts to promote positive social change and combat poverty in China. The program focuses on education, rural commerce advancement, empowering women, healthcare and environmental sustainability. The program will primarily be funded by donations from us and the partners in the Alibaba Partnership.
We also provide health insurance funded by donations collected on our platforms to cover major illnesses to breadwinners in impoverished households in selected provinces. As part of this initiative, we use our technology to enable insurers to accept and verify insurance applications online and donors to track the use of their donations. These measures help to reduce the operating costs of insurance companies, allowing a greater portion of the donations to be used to pay out insurance claims. As of March 31, 2018, we have raised approximately RMB38 million and provided health insurance to 810,000 families in 10 impoverished counties.
Taobao University offers e-commerce classes to entrepreneurs and rural villagers. Taobao University offers online courses in approximately 98.9% of state-designated impoverished counties. In fiscal year 2018, over 210,000 students from 823 state-designated impoverished counties took approximately 2,300 online courses on Taobao University.
We work with enterprises and users to implement environmentally sustainable business models across various sectors, such as manufacturing, retail, logistics and cloud computing. Our cloud computing business not only helps enterprises reduce their need for computing hardware, its technology is also built on the idea of environment sustainability. For example, we launched a data center featuring an innovative cooling system that uses lake water to cut energy costs. Furthermore, Cainiao Network and other major Chinese express courier companies formed the Cainiao Green Alliance to promote green logistics initiatives, including “green packaging,” that utilizes biologically degradable courier bags, tape-free boxes and package recycling bins, and “green warehouses,” which have installed solar panels. Cainiao Network has also developed a packaging optimization algorithm, which on average reduces the use of packaging materials by approximately 15%, and was used in over 250 million delivery boxes and courier bags in fiscal year 2018.
We have always encouraged the active participation in public service by our company and our employees. Since 2010, we have established a special fund to encourage environmental awareness and conservation as well as other corporate social responsibility initiatives. In 2011, we established the Alibaba Foundation, a private charity fund that focuses on supporting environmental protection in China and helping the disadvantaged. In fiscal year 2018, we and the Alibaba Foundation made approximately RMB230 million (US$37 million) in donations. Since September 2015, we have encouraged our employees to perform a minimum of three hours of public service every year.
We also leverage our ecosystem to extend the reach of our charitable initiatives and encourage merchants, consumers and other ecosystem participants to engage in public service. For instance, to support the United Nation's annual September 5 International Day of Charity, we initiated multiple public charity activities that attracted over 270 million instances of participation.
Charitable organizations can also set up storefronts on our marketplaces to raise funds and engage with volunteers. Merchants can designate a percentage of their sales proceeds generated on our platforms to go to charitable organizations. Consumers can contribute to charitable causes by purchasing public interest products, participating in charity auctions hosted on our platforms or directly making donations. Through our platforms, we supported over 1.7 million merchants and over 360 million users to donate to domestic and overseas charitable projects and enabled charitable organizations to raise approximately RMB320 million (US$51 million) in donations in fiscal year 2018, which benefited approximately 3.3 million disadvantaged people.
Furthermore, our “Reunion” platform connects our and our partners' mobile apps to help locate missing children across China. Since its initial launch in mid-2016 and up to March 31, 2018, this platform has helped law enforcement authorities successfully locate 2,777 missing children, reflecting a 97.6% success rate. The “Reunion” platform has received international attention. To support the global effort on child protection, we hosted a global leadership conference in 2018 to share the technology and thinking behind our "Reunion" platform with organization from over 20 countries.