Vietnam has been selected to host ASOCIO, the trade organization of 10,000 mostly-Asian information and communication technology companies based in 29 countries. The event, scheduled in Hanoi for late October, is emblematic of Vietnam’s meteoric rise in technology.
The first time Vietnam hosted the annual convention, 11 years ago, the industry barely existed in the country. In 2003, less than 5% of Vietnamese people had access to the Internet.
Since then, Internet usage has grown to 35%, and Vietnam’s hardware and software industries are experiencing annual growth rates in the 30% to 40% range.
ASOCIO says the organization chose Vietnam because of its rapidly rising capacity and prestige in information and communications technology — and cited Vietnam’s vision, policies and strategies. Vietnam is positioning itself to become a major global tech center.
Vietnam’s Chamber of Commerce says e-commerce will grow to $6 billion over the next three years, and consumers will pay $2 billion online by 2015 as 30 million internet users get comfortable with online purchasing.
Vietnam’s trade ministry also is planning an import-export website starting next year to support the country’s textile, seafood, agriculture, wood, rubber, footwear, leather, steel, fertilizer, plastic and handicrafts industries. The B2B website aims to find trading partners for small companies.
Vietnam currently has 9,300 business-to-customer and 3,000 business-to-business websites that account for $2 billion in revenue annually. The majority of Vietnam’s Internet users seek out product information online. Even so, Vietnam e-commerce lags behind other parts of the world.
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Vietnam’s coming import-export website
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This year marks IBM’s 15th year in Vietnam, where information technology has rapidly become indispensable and helped its economic emergence. The government has prioritized communications technology, and now about one-third of Vietnamese log on to the Internet daily.
IT now accounts for more than $15 billion of Vietnam’s economy, and government projects are expected to attract more spending in the public sector over the next decade to develop IT in healthcare, education, energy, transportation, and communications.
IBM says Vietnam — where the company is concentrating on services for small- and medium-sized enterprises and state-owned businesses — is one of the company’s 20 “focused investment countries.”
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Vietnam’s telecom sector this year has blossomed into a $10 billion industry — achiving an average annual growth rate above 30% for the past several years. The country now has a modern telecom infrastructure, high competitiveness, and relatively narrow service gaps between regions.
Vietnam now has 162 million telephone subscribers — nearly two phones per person — and 91% of the consumers are mobile phone users. There are 26 million Internet users — 31% of the population.
And serving these customers are no fewer than 11 networks and 81 Internet service providers, some of which are now investing abroad. One of them — the military firm Viettel — has invested in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Haiti and Mozambique, while another, VNPT, has opened a representative office in the US.
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Analysts sometimes treat Vietnam as if it were an adjunct to China, but here’s something to counter that impression: Yahoo is enjoying spectacular success in Vietnam — now with 95% of Vietnam’s Internet users (23 million) using Yahoo’s sites– after Yahoo failed under the Chinese Communist regime that tried to control its content.
In Vietnam, Yahoo has avoided clashes over censorship by parking the personal data of its users in Singapore, meeting with high-level officials in Hanoi, and creating locally flavored content. And Vietnam has been receptive to Yahoo’s operations.
Doing well in Vietnam, a country criticized by human rights groups for jailing critics of its one-party system, requires diplomatic, as well as business, skills. For example, Yahoo gains favor with the government by acting as technology adviser to officials on issues such as Internet law.
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The Wall Street Journal highlights the Vietnam government’s new Internet social-networking site, go.vn, whose trial version started in May. Users have to submit government-issued identity numbers to access the site, which is a softer effort to control the Internet than measures used in the past — shutting down parts of the Web, jailing dissident bloggers and blocking subversive content on Facebook.
The site employs 400 people, mostly in their 20s, who put content on the site including news, online English tests and state-approved videogames such as one featuring a band of militants bent on stopping the spread of global capitalism.
The site aims for 40 million users by 2015, but many tech-saavy young Vietnamese are more interested in finding ways around government controls. Vietnam now has 26 million Internet users, 18% more than a year ago.
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Authorities in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi are shutting down hundreds of Internet cafes within 220 yards of schools because too many children are skipping classes to play video games. The government also wants to suspend online service to Internet shops between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am.
In the past three years, Vietnam has vaulted into a leading role as one of the world’s most prolific Internet users, and the government is struggling with resulting increased exposure of the conservative culture to violence and pornography — although Google and others say authorities are more concerned about blocking access to websites with political content.
Vietnam now has 24 million Internet users — about 28% of the population.
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