Sovereignty in digital space

With a population of 97.3 million, including 70 percent of internet users, Vietnam is a potential market for digital platform providers.

Digital platforms such as Google, Gmail, Grab, GoJek and social networks have become an indispensable part in the life of Vietnamese. 

According to We Are Social 2022, Facebook is the most popular social media platform in Vietnam with 93.8 percent of internet users using it. Messenger, the messaging tool, TikTok, the video sharing social network, and Instagram, the image sharing network, are used by over 60 percent of Vietnamese people.

The presence of cross-border digital platforms has brought opportunities to offer Internet services to Vietnamese. But it also entails concerns, including national digital sovereignty in cyberspace.

Many questions have been raised. Where are Vietnamese people’s data? Who can understand the behavior of people, as well as Vietnamese agencies and organizations I  cyberspace? Will people be safe if the data are held by companies providing cross-border platforms? What will happen if cross-border platforms are used for political purposes, such as impacting elections or implementing an ‘embargo’ I  cyberspace?

Challenges from cyberspace

This is an important issue as the world is experiencing unpredictable upheavals, including conflicts, trade wars and non-traditional challenges such as climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most recently, big tech such as Apple, Twitter and Spotify announced withdrawal from Russia because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. YouTube, Meta and Microsoft have restricted the operation of Russia’s multi-media channels in Europe, such as RT and Sputnik. In response, Russia has banned access to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Social media, big data, smartphones and low-cost satellites now serve as important tools in data collection. The extractions of Twitter data have become as important as anything else in intelligence analysis toolkits.

While accelerating the construction of a digital society, digital economy and digital government, Vietnam will have to cope with challenges from cyberspace. More than ever, protecting national sovereignty, interests and security in cyberspace and responding to new threats have become a matter of survival.

And the problem can only be solved by the promotion of the development of ‘Make in Vietnam’ digital platforms.

‘Make in Vietnam’ spirit

Many local technology firms have pioneered in creating ‘Make in Vietnam’ products and solutions.

On January 17, 2020, Viettel conducted the first 5G call with the device it made. The deployment of 5G in Vietnam has been going smoothly as businesses can produce many kinds of information and telecommunication infrastructure equipment, which Vietnam had to buy from other countries in the past.

There are only five companies in the world that successfully make 5G network equipment, and Viettel is the sixth, which makes Vietnam one of a few countries that can manufacture 5G equipment.

Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) Chairman To Dung Thai said that the group needs to pioneer in researching and applying new technologies in accordance with the ‘Make in Vietnam’ spirit and the Prime Minister’s direction on promoting the development of Vietnam’s digital technology firms.

Not only Viettel and VNPT, other firms have also created Make in Vietnam digital products which can replace those made by multinational groups.

They include Zalo, a messaging app which has become a social media platform used by 91.3 percent of internet users, Gapo and Lotus, which are two well-known social networks of Vietnam.

In the field of e-hailing, ‘Be’, a Vietnamese app, now can compete equally with foreign platforms such as Grab (Malaysia) and Gojek (Indonesia). These three platforms held 99 percent of the market in 2020. 

In the field of digital technology, Vietnamese browser Coc Coc is familiar to users. According to StatCounter, as of February 2021 Coc Coc was in the top 3 most popular browsers with 8.9 percent market share, behind Chrome and Safari.

A representative of Coc Coc said that to develop sustainably, it is necessary to become independent and self-reliant, especially technologically self-reliant.

Technological self-reliance, or "digital sovereignty", "digital freedom" can be understood as having technological platforms and products equal or superior to foreign products.

Coc Coc is now one of 20 browsers and 10 search engines in the world. 

Trong Dat