Mai Liem Truc, former Deputy Minister of Posts and Telematics, believes that technology and digital transformation is the key to robust growth.
Vietnam aims to become a developed country with high income by 2045. What role will the science and technology sector play in turning this into reality?
All the industrial revolutions so far in history came from innovations and new technology inventions. For a long time, Vietnam stayed backward and poor because it could not take full advantage of the revolutions.
Mai Liem Truc, former Deputy Minister of Posts and Telematics
At the end of the third industrial revolution, while countries like India created a Green Revolution in biology, Vietnam still lacked rice. When Khoan 10 (household contracting) mechanism was applied, which allowed farmers to freely cultivate on their fields, Vietnam stopped the rice shortage period and became one of the world’s biggest rice exporters.
In the telecommunications sector, Vietnam grasped the technology trend in 1980s and took a daring move to skip analog technology and go straight to digital technology. This led to strong development in Vietnam’s telecommunications, with Vietnam among the countries that soon began applying digital technology.
However, it would be not enough if Vietnam only relied on technology and still maintained the natural monopoly. GPO made a daring decision on opening the telecom market to many different economic sectors despite controversy and certain obstacles.
So, you may see that science and technology is a foundation and important key to development. However, whether to effectively use the key will depend on institutions and people.
Which bottlenecks does Vietnam need to remove to develop the digital economy on the basis of science and technology, innovation, and the improvement of productivity, quality, efficiency and economic competitiveness?
Previously, we carried out renovation, market opening and global integration on the basis of natural resources and cheap labor force. However, these are the factors which now set limitations for us and force us to enter a new development stage with new technologies, especially digital technology.
The world is shifting to a 4.0 industrial revolution with the strong presence of digital technology and Vietnam has no other choice to become involved in the revolution. This, by nature, is a digital transformation process. This is a great opportunity for Vietnam to change rapidly and implement the aspiration of becoming a developed country by 2045.
To successfully be digitized, Vietnam needs to rely on three pillars. First, technology. Second, institutional mechanism. And third, human resources.
In terms of technology, Vietnam is behind other countries in heavy industries, mechanical engineering and material industry. However, the 4.0 revolution is intellectual technology which isn't based on existing infrastructure.
|The world is shifting to a 4.0 industrial revolution with the strong presence of digital technology and Vietnam has no other choice to become involved in the revolution. This, by nature, is a digital transformation process. This is a great opportunity for Vietnam to change rapidly and implement the aspiration of becoming a developed country by 2045.|
We can see the strong development of many Vietnamese technology firms in recent years. Now we have nearly 50,000 digital technology firms and we expect to have 100,000 in the time to come. These will be the pioneering force in Vietnam’s digital transformation.
The second pillar – institutions – is the biggest problem that needs to be solved, or it will hinder the application of technology and innovation. The ‘institution’ here means legal framework.
It is necessary to convert the legal framework for a traditional physical environment to a framework for an internet environment.
Nowadays we talk about the role of data in digital transformation, but there exists the problem that data is not connected and shared. We still don’t have laws on data collection, storage and sharing, data protection and use, but we only have decrees to cover the issues.
Previously, Vietnam developed science and technology with reliance on the state. But now, the main subjects of developing science and technology are enterprises. Therefore, the policies need to be changed accordingly. Policy must be issued quickly to satisfy the requirements of development.
Regarding the third pillar, Vietnamese people have capability in digital transformation. Vietnam has a population of nearly 100 million, the 15th most populous country. It is a big market and a condition for robust development. Whether the digital transformation succeeds will depend on the leaders.
Do you believe that Vietnam will successfully grab this opportunity?
I do, but there are many challenges.
Our country has gone through a thorny path in history and many wars, so it has the desire to walk abreast with other nations in the world.
The country’s leaders believe that digital transformation will be the opportunity to realize the aspiration. Following a series of important decisions including the Politburo’s Resolution 52 about the 4.0 revolution, the Prime Minister has released a strategy on digital transformation.
Meanwhile, technology firms have captured the digital transformation trend and prepared their human resources. Moreover, Vietnam has a strong telecom infrastructure system and high number of smartphone users.
What would you say about the capability of Vietnam’s IT firms?
We have some economic groups which have reached out to the world market, such as Viettel, Vingroup and FPT. Other smaller businesses are also ‘going to the open sea’.
I believe that more and more Vietnam’s enterprises will join global value chains. Obviously, the country’s opportunity and mission is being put on technology firms’ shoulders.
The digital transformation process is being carried out throughout Vietnam, from large enterprises to small shops.
To become a powerful and prosperous country by 2045, Vietnam needs to obtain a GDP growth rate of 7.5-8 percent per annum for the next 25 years. Only digital transformation can helps make this a reality.