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Vietnam Goal of Building a Digital Economy

In the report titled "Vietnam's Future Digital Economy: Toward 2030 and 2045," the four scenarios offer a blueprint for policymakers

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digital economy, vietnam
Nano and other smart technology are increasingly common in TVs in Vietnam, which hopes to make tech a bigger part of its economy. (Ha Nguyen for VOA)

Nations racing to develop 5G technology that is fast enough to power the next stage of innovation range from South Korea to Finland, but a young contender wants to jump into the game: Vietnam.

The Southeast Asian country announced with much fanfare this month that a test of fifth generation telecommunications technology, in the form of a phone call, was successful. The call to test 5G matters, not just for the internet, but for Vietnam’s goal of building a digital economy.

That future economy could be filled with deliveries by drone, machine learning to detect cyber attacks, and digital health records — or the economy could stick to traditional businesses like agriculture and tourism, as a new government report lays out.

vietnam, digital economy
If Vietnam does not move quickly enough to embrace a digital economy, it will continue to rely on traditional sectors like agricultural products, a new report says. (Ha Nguyen for VOA)

Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology jointly launched a report on the digital economy with its Australian counterpart Wednesday, laying out four possible scenarios. Each scenario is at a different level of digitalization, depending on how thoroughly Vietnam adopts new technology.

“I request industries and provinces to improve their awareness of, and responsibility in, steering the science and technology development, and continue to strengthen the relevant legal and policy framework,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in a speech.

“It is critical to focus on the development of the national innovation system,” he added, “putting the businesses at the heart of this system while promoting the linkages among research institutes, universities, and businesses to create and accumulate intellectual assets to fuel economic development in a rapid, inclusive, and sustainable manner.”

In the report titled “Vietnam’s Future Digital Economy: Toward 2030 and 2045,” the four scenarios offer a blueprint for policymakers.

vietnam, digital economy
Traditional video games are getting a tech upgrade, with major Vietnamese startup VNG working on virtual reality gaming. (Ha Nguyen for VOA)

In the first option, the country reaches its full technological potential in the next two decades, with smart cities, high productivity, and high-skilled talent in an economy geared toward services.

In the second scenario, little has changed in that time, with the economy relying on cash and low-wage labor to export farmed goods and natural resources.

Those are the two extremes, while the two remaining scenarios fall somewhere in between, depending on whether Vietnam is more technology consumer or exporter.

“The next wave of digital technologies — artificial intelligence, blockchain, the internet of things, and platforms and cloud-based services — has the potential to transform Vietnam into Asia’s next high-performing economy,” said Lucy Cameron, the lead author of the report. “Vietnam will need to seize these substantial opportunities while carefully navigating a number of risks.” There are signs the digital technology is already catching on in Vietnam.

vietnam, digital economy
FILE – Internet users browse internet near an advertising billboard for 4G connection service at a bus-stop in Hanoi, Vietnam. VOA

Besides the research and development of 5G, companies are using robots in their warehouses, like the country’s largest dairy, Vinamilk, and DB Schenker, a German logistics firm operating in Vietnam. FPT, a domestic electronics business, used artificial intelligence to create a chat bot and made it available to third-party software developers. The gaming startup VNG is introducing virtual reality to its players.

It is not all good news. The rise of ride-hailing apps has been linked to a drop in the use of public transit around the world, and that is happening in Vietnam, too. Local press recently reported a decline in bus use, while the increase of ride hailing has led to clogged city streets.

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Even in a best case scenario, there are four potential drawbacks to an increasingly connected Vietnam, according to the report, which is supported by CSIRO’s Data61, the data and digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency. They include more threats to cyber security, higher borrowing to fund infrastructure and technological spending, a shortage of technical talent, and reliance on external companies for products and services. How far Vietnam takes its technological evolution, of course, is up to Vietnam. (VOA)

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Vietnam and Australia to Start Collaborating on Science Initiatives

The winning teams are three different pairs of universities, one from Vietnam and one from Australia, that will work together

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Vietnam, Australia, Science
In the Pacific Ocean, a sea cucumber deploys its upright 'sail' to use current energy to transport itself along the sea floor. VOA

From sea cucumbers to cancer research, Vietnam and Australia will start collaborating on science initiatives that are meant to show how innovation can be used to spread out the benefits of economic growth evenly to more of the population.

The Australian government has given more than 1.6 million Australian dollars to the three winners of a competition it co hosted with the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam as part of its so-called Aus4Innovation program. The winning teams are three different pairs of universities, one from Vietnam and one from Australia, that will work together on scientific research.

“The innovation partnership between Australia and Vietnam has proven to be an effective mechanism for the two countries to share best practice and models to enhance the innovation systems in both countries,” Vice Minister Bui The Duy from the Ministry of Science and Technology said at the award ceremony in Hanoi last week. “We hope grants provided under the Aus4Innovation program will set examples of how innovation – particularly when it can jointly [be] developed and implemented – can transform our society and deliver economic, social and environmental sustainability.”

One of the grants will center around sea cucumbers, a long spindly marine animal commonly cooked in Asian cuisine, whether fried on their own, or braised with mushrooms and Chinese broccoli. Scientists who received the grant are researching how to produce a hormone they believe can increase the productivity of sea cucumber farming. This matters to Vietnam because it wants its farmers to increase productivity so they can make a sustainable living while not draining so many resources  to harm the environment. At the same time, this product could raise questions of nutritional ethics among those who want minimal hormone and other human intervention in their food.

Vietnam, Australia, Science
The Australian government has given more than 1.6 million Australian dollars to the three winners of a competition it co hosted with the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam. Pixabay

The grant recipients are researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) in Australia and the Research Institute for Aquaculture No. Three (RIA3) in Nha Trang, a touristic beach town along Vietnam’s south central coast known for its many islands.

They competed among 115 groups in Vietnam that applied for the grants and were selected based on their “potential positive economic and social impacts,” the Australian embassy in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, said in a press release.

Another of the three winners is a collaboration between the University of Sydney and the National Health Strategy and Policy Institute (NHSPI) in Vietnam, which are working on a way to improve methods to diagnose breast cancer.

Finally, one of the winning teams will use technology considered part of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” to improve water supply monitoring and treatment. The specific technology was not described, but considering the application, this likely means “internet of things” devices, which are devices such as sensors that have chips to connect them to the internet, so data can be collected. The team is from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the Vietnamese National University of Engineering and Technology (VNU-UET).

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“Deeper, stronger ties between our innovation systems is a key goal for our strategic partnership with Vietnam,” Rebecca Bryant, a charge d’affaires at the Australian embassy, said. “I’m delighted to see more and more collaboration between the research institutions of our two countries.” (VOA)