Tag Archives: Vietnam technology

Vietnam’s Brainy Children Surprise Google

The online global technology site The Next Web tells of a Google software engineer who found many Vietnamese 11th graders could easily pass Google’s notoriously difficult interview test.  The discovery speaks volumes about Vietnam’s future.

The engineer, Neil Fraser, visited classrooms from grade 2 to 11 to learn about Vietnam’s computer science curriculum.  He found that 3rd graders knew how to use Windows and Microsoft Word in English.  And 4th and 5th graders were doing complicated computer programming — far outstripping the skill level and curriculum offered in the US.

3rd grade English-speakers in Vinh City
3rd grade English-speakers in Vinh City

In grade 11, Fraser gave students a sophisticated challenge and then asked a colleague at Google how they did — and found they would be in the top third of Google’s job candidates.  Fraser concluded about half of the students in the class could pass the Google process.

This discovery should shock anybody who has heard about the supposedly dismal condition of Vietnam’s education system.  Overall, there’s no doubt the country faces a major challenge modernizing its education system, but the other half of the story rarely has been told.

Vietnam has a centuries-old respect for education, which has been confirmed in my visits to schools throughout the country.  Parents value teachers and sacrifice mightily to help their children learn.  Third graders learn English.  They are disciplined.  And the typical grade school in remote areas of Vietnam has a computer lab with about 30 work stations and Internet access.  The photos on this page are from my visits last fall to classrooms in the northern provinces of Nghe An and remote Ha Tinh.

Google engineer Neil Fraser’s discovery is no surprise to anyone who has experience with today’s  Vietnamese children.  Over the next generation, the rest of the world will be exposed to their potential.

Grade school computer classroom in Vinh

Grade school computer classroom in Vinh

A high school English class in Ha Tinh Province

A high school English class in Ha Tinh Province

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Free Enterprise (But Not Expression) in Vietnam

Vietnam says 85% of its people will have access to broadband within two years.  What each individual does with that access will determine whether he or she ends up living in luxury or prison.

Government leaders know Vietnam’s continued rapid economic development depends partly on Internet access, but they don’t want citizens challenging authority, government policies or, especially, the one-party system that keeps the current regime in power.

So Vietnam is leap-frogging generations of communications technology, such as skipping fixed-lined infrastructure, and getting the latest smart phones in the homes of remote villagers who only recently got access to electricity.

But anyone who uses state-of-the art technology to bite the hand that feeds them, as bloggers do worldwide, risks the fate of Nguyen Dac Kien, the journalist who was fired last month from a state-run newspaper and threatened with prosecution for criticizing a Communist Party leader on his personal website.

Vietnam faces a big challenge managing the freedoms that the communications revolution has brought.  Vietnam’s economy can’t thrive without technology that facilitates free enterprize — but its one-party system may not survive if the same technology facilitates free expression.

Today’s Vietnam in Pictures

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After travel this fall through 25 provinces in Vietnam — from the Mekong Delta to the Chinese border — I’ve compiled a 5-minute slide show.  Our trip was to evaluate the investment climate in this promising frontier market, and to grow our coffee brand (www.templehillsonline.com).

The photos will give you a feel for Vietnam today.

Click here for the photos. For captions, click “show info” at the top right.

Sincerely,

Jeff Browne — 262-641-0737 (o); 262-271-7330 (c)

jbrowne@vietnomics.com http://www.vietnomics.com

The address for the slides: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vietnomics/sets/72157632231224520/show/

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Vietnomics LLC, through partnerships in the US and in Vietnam, is a global sourcing consultancy that links US and VN investors and companies. Our advisors provide cultural training and services regarding sourcing, marketing, investing, government relations, factory evaluation, social investment and legal solutions. We provide quarterly updates and frequent blog posts (vietnomics.wordpress.com) about opportunities in Vietnam.

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The Top Ten Beaches in Vietnam

After traveling through Vietnam four times in the past four years, I have identified the best beaches in the country.  My criteria have little to do with the quality of the beaches themselves, or their appeal to tourists; instead, my focus has been return on investment.

The best investment opportunities are often shoreline regions that have yet to be noticed by foreign visitors, much less converted into resorts.  Therefore, about half of the beaches on my list are places most Westerners have never heard of — but probably will soon.

Here are the first three of Vietnam’s 10 top beaches for investors looking for long-term returns, ranked in order starting with the most attractive opportunity (the rest of the list in future posts):

  1. Phan Rang.  Some guide books don’t acknowledge its existence, which is part of what makes Phan Rang a great opportunity.  It’s a middle-sized city with the best weather in Vietnam, miles of high-quality undeveloped beach, development and marketing plans created by some of the world’s most respected consultants, two national parks, a spectacular seacoast highway in the works that rivals California’s Big Sur, ancient Cham art and craft villages, and a national commitment to become a high-tech clean energy center in partnership with Russia and Japan.
     
    Hauling in the fish net, and sunset, in Phan Rang
  2. Quy Nhon. A well-managed small city on the South Central Coast, Quy Nhon has a great beach, a wall of mountains protecting it from typhoons, a grand plan, and the road infrastructure already in place to accommodate an 8-square mile new city that will include a modern industrial park, eco-resorts and beach-front residential developments. Already the busy port of choice for exporters from the mountainous regions of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, Quy Nhon’s place in the national economy is growing.

    A resort in Quy Nhon

    University students in a Quy Nhon park

     

  3. Phu Quoc.  Domestic and foreign developers have eyed the Island of Phu Quoc for years as the next Macau, and finally the infrastructure is starting to fall into place — such as a new airport — to make some of the dreams come true.  Situated in the Gulf of Thailand in easy proximity to most of Southeast Asia, Phu Quoc is destined to grow in popularity for international tourists even if  a casino never opens there.

    Footprints on Phu Quoc’s long beach

Want to Buy a Fish Factory?

Foreign tourists in Saigon who want to get a feel for the Mekong Delta typically take a day trip to the Tien River and witness, at a one-stop shop, coconut-candy making, traditional dancing, honey bees doing their thing, and a small stretch of a brown stream from the seat of a canoe.

They are visiting the city of My Tho, which more than a tourist attraction is the site of a world-class fishing industry — and a golden opportunity for a small investor who wants to take a risk on an emerging market company.

A Hung Vuong worker prepares fish for export

The company, Hung Vuong Corporation, is publicly traded on the Ho Chi Minh stock exchange.  It owns and operates four factories and eight farms in five Mekong Delta provinces, each with about a dozen ponds teeming with pangasius, a white fish also sold in US food stores as panga or swai.

Every morning in My Tho alone, the company harvests 300,000 pounds of fish, processes them in a facility that employs 1,500, packages the frozen products, and sends them to markets worldwide.

The facility we visited is a modern, high-tech factory with state-of-the-art equipment as well as hygienic and environmentally sustainable practices.  Byproducts, such as fish fat, are harvested for industrial uses.

Hung Vuong has export revenue of $230 million this year and expects that to grow to $300 million in 2015.  The market values the company at about $50 million.  It has a price-to-earnings ratio just over 4, and a price below the book value.  It pays a 14% dividend.

And all you need to buy a Vietnamese fishery in My Tho, or a share of it, is $1.11 (as of today) and a license to trade through a Vietnam brokerage.

Farmers at a Hung Vuong fish pond

The huge factory in My Tho employs 1,500

Miles of Underdeveloped Beach in Vietnam

At six this morning, the beach at Phan Rang was a beehive of activity — joggers, fishers, volleyballers, swimmers, sunrise worshipers — but certainly not crowded.  By far this was the busiest time of day; by seven, the miles of underdeveloped beach were pretty much abandoned.

Competitive beach volleyball began before six this morning in Phan Rang, Vietnam, where miles of beach are undeveloped

The scene captured one of the reasons Phan Rang may be among the best investment opportunities in Vietnam — and perhaps the world — today.  This beach is destined to change radically over the next decade.

Many global businesses know Vietnam is an energetic, enterprising, hard-working  nation of tens of millions of early risers who work out at the beach or the park before starting the workday.

In this regard, Phan Rang is no exception.  It is an exceptional opportunity because its miles of beaches, though trashy in spots, rise to the level of quality of the Vietnam’s most popular seacoast resort areas (Mui Ne, Hoi An, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, and Vung Tau) — yet Phan Rang remains largely unknown and therefore undeveloped.   Where one visitor sees a blank canvas, an entrepreneur sees hordes of Chinese consumers desperate to get away from China’s crowded beaches.

But that’s just a small part of the Phan Rang investment story.  The rest includes these elements:

  • The best weather in Vietnam; the most sunny days and least rain.  Today is the middle of the monsoon season, and it has rained for five minutes in four days.
  • Two national parks  that include spectacular rock formations that I call God’s sculpture garden (more on that in a future post).
  • Provincial leadership that was the first in Vietnam with the wisdom to hire international consultants — including Michael Porter’s consultancy from Harvard — to help them create a plan for Ninh Thuan Province (of which Phan Rang is the center).
  • Vietnam’s first Economic Development Office, a one-stop shop for international investors that has the clout and capacity to cut through the red tape that has been driving global businesses crazy elsewhere in Vietnam.

The final element is good or bad, depending on your point of view:  Ninh Thuan Province is aiming at becoming a global clean energy center, and that includes nuclear power. The Vietnamese government selected the province for its first nuclear power plant — and also its second.  The two plants will flank Phan Rang, each about 25 miles away from the city.  The first, with Russian assistance, is scheduled to begin construction in 2014; the second, a partnership with Japan, in 2020.

That decision promises to bring massive amounts of economic activity to Phan Rang and provide jobs for an international workforce of 20,000 people, including hundreds of highly trained professionals.

Also, the reasons the province has been selected are instructive because they coincide in part with attributes that attract residents and tourists:  The province is considered the most stable in Vietnam — least likely to experience earthquakes, typhoons, and other natural disasters.  And, obviously, the Vietnamese, with the help of Russia and Japan, are engineering the plants with avoidance of another Japanese tsunami in mind.

Taking a Stand Against Music Pirates in Vietnam

Two global corporations — Coca-Cola and Samsung — are ending advertising at one of Vietnam’s most popular websites that provides unlicensed downloads of songs.  Zing.vn, the 6th most visited site in Vietnam, attracts advertisers eager to sell them products in the fast-growing market with 30 million people online.

Other Zing advertisers include Canon, Yamaha, Intel and Colgate Palmolive — companies that helped Zing’s legitimacy while Vietnamese artists fumed because the site profits from their work without compensating them.  Last year Coke collaborated with Zing on a music awards ceremony that included a special site that attracted 10 million visitors.

The withdrawal of advertising from the site may have an impact on the culture clash that has been growing since Vietnam’s young people started getting interested in Western culture and technology they couldn’t afford.  Now Vietnam is in a battle over credibility with the world’s music industry.

The country has laws against piracy, but not much enforcement.  Loss of advertising revenue might be an effective substitute for Zing, whose ownership includes investors from San Francisco and New York.

More on music piracy in Vietnam