Liz Hung supports a lot of the imaginative concepts being discussed to make Vietnam “greener” economically and in terms of urban planning.
Consider traffic lights. Hung described how government authorities could collect smartphone data to see which streets are crowded, and then calibrate the stoplights to optimize traffic flow.
Hung and others in the private sector are giving Vietnamese officials their wish list for a green economy, from more renewable energy to buildings that collect rain water for use.
“Road congestion costs us at least 2 to 5% of our [gross domestic product] growth every year because of the time we lost or the high transportation cost, so that is why being smart [in] mobility is very crucial,” said Hung, who is CBRE associate director of Asia Pacific Research.
Hung’s comment highlights the link between good city planning and economic benefits.
Emulating China, Australia
There is also a larger debate about whether the economic benefits outweigh the costs of going green.
There is a financial cost of technology to make Vietnam more efficient. But there also is a security cost, as “smart devices,” like lights connected to the internet, have looser security settings that make them easier to hack.
In looking for inspiration for Vietnam’s future, Hung looked at places from Hangzhou, China, where she heard about the traffic data, to Adelaide, Australia, where authorities installed smart sensors in trash bins, which alert garbage collectors when the bins are nearly full.
If the idea is to increase efficiency, Vietnam should think about energy use, said Tomaso Andreatta, vice chair at the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.
Last month, the chamber held a forum on sustainable cities. In addition to rooftop solar panels and wind turbines, some cities are exploring ways to create energy from things that would otherwise be tossed out.
Trash can be burned, for example, to boil water for steam generators that produce electricity, a process known as waste-to-energy. This does risk increasing carbon emissions or decreasing incentives for recycling, however.
Aiming for zero waste
“More and more we realize that resources are limited, and producing waste destroys the quality of life,” Andreatta said. “Therefore, there’s been a movement worldwide to reducing waste to an absolute minimum, ideally zero.”
He went on to say, “The rapid development of the middle class and its lifestyle, which includes intensive air conditioning use, accounts for a considerable proportion of energy consumption growth.”
It may be the middle class that benefits most from a greener Vietnam, where the private sector steps in to create greater efficiencies, when the government is not involved.
Property developers are building enclosed communities where sustainability is part of the design, whether it’s motion-detecting lights, or insulation that keeps indoor temperatures manageable. One developer introduced pollution warnings. Another made a transportation app just for its residents.
But what about those who are not lucky enough to live in a gated community? Government officials say they are listening to proposals across all sectors. They say that as Vietnam faces a major threat from climate change, it needs to make greater efforts at green planning.
“Climate change will have a big impact on the region,” said Huynh Xuan Thu, deputy chief officer of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Architecture and Urban Planning.
Some of the ideas, such as a country full of electric cars, may be a pipe dream or years down the road. But Vietnam is getting started on some of the proposals. In Ho Chi Minh City, officials are looking at traffic sensors and gathering data on congestion, which they hope to reduce through technology in the near future. (VOA)
The Vietnamese comedy channel FAP TV has become the first YouTube account to hit the 10 million subscribers mark in the Southeast Asian country of nearly 100 million people, according to an announcement on Thursday from the Asia Pacific office of Google, which owns YouTube.
Vietnam has been one of the fastest growing markets for the video site, especially after Google invested in computer servers in the country, which have sped up streaming and download times. YouTube has also invested heavily in Vietnamese language content and advertising.
But the process has come with growing pains, too, most notably in the realms of taxes and censorship. The site has blocked videos with content critical of the government. While these actions are taken following requests from the state, YouTube says it follows the same protocol around the world when it gets requests from governments to take down clips. Videos have been blocked in countries from Algeria to Germany, with reasons cited ranging from hate speech to terrorism.
In its transparency report for Vietnam Google notes that it received a request from the Vietnamese government to remove 28 YouTube videos inciting violent protests during the Vietnamese Independence Day period (Vietnam’s Independence Day is September 2). Google says it removed 12 videos for violating YouTube Community Guidelines that prohibit publishing instructions to commit violent acts. It restricted access to 4 other videos in Vietnam. The company did not remove the remaining 12 videos.
Google also appears to be complying with a new cyber security law in Vietnam, which requires foreign companies to set up representative offices inside the country. Some have speculated that one of the factors motivating the law is to ensure that multinational companies do not evade taxes.
Vietnam has been trying to collect taxes from both Google and YouTube, as well as other foreign tech companies that make profits from Vietnamese customers while declaring their profits to tax authorities in other countries with lower tax rates like Singapore. In contrast to a bricks and mortar store that sells bicycles, which are simple to tax, foreign tech companies tend to sell intangible services, like advertising attached to YouTube videos, which are harder to tax.
“Aside from the matter of studying amendments to laws and regulations of tax administration, cooperation is needed between state agencies and industry,” Luu Duc Huy, head of the policy department at the Vietnamese General Department of Tax, told the government TV station, V News. “Second, cooperation is needed between the Vietnamese tax agency and other countries’ tax agencies.”
Google has said repeatedly that it follows all laws in the countries where it operates.
It is not just Vietnam. Most countries from Thailand to France are trying to figure out how to collect taxes on YouTube and other businesses that physically operate beyond their borders but make money from citizens within the borders. As Huy noted, the solution is likely to derive from these multiple tax authorities coming together, as is now being proposed by the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (VOA)