The government has been hard at work improving its institutions and legal framework for the digital economy.
In mid-March, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc witnessed the inauguration ceremony for the National E-document Exchange Platform in Hanoi; an event considered an important milestone in building e-government in the country. Since the internet arrived in Vietnam in 1997, the country has become ever closer to a digital government and digital economy, with the government creating a legal framework in recent years to boost the development of the digital economy.
Minister and Chairman of the Office of the Government and General Secretary of the National Committee on e-Government Mai Tien Dung told the ceremony that the introduction of the platform is clear evidence of the government’s determination to develop e-government and a step forward in accelerating the digital transformation process among State agencies in order to better serve citizens and businesses.
The National E-document Exchange Platform comes under Decision No. 28/2018-QD-TTg approved by Prime Minister Phuc, which prescribes the sending and receipt of e-documents among agencies in the State administrative system. Ninety-five central agencies and localities, including all 31 ministries and ministerial-level agencies, 63 cities and provinces, and the Party Central Committee’s Office have connected with the platform, with e-documents being sent and received quickly and safety.
The Decision lists a goal of having 20 per cent of residents and businesses in the e-government system authenticated and unified electronically on all information systems of authorities, from the central to local levels. The government also expects to raise the rate of online services at Level 4 to at least 30 per cent, and 50 per cent of ministerial and provincial public service portals are to provide interfaces for mobile devices. Residents and businesses are expected to receive assistance as they engage in public services. Initial efforts by the government to approach the digital economy began in 2010, through a series of legal documents relating to the building of e-government.
The government’s digital transformation activities over recent years have been promoted through Prime Ministerial Resolution No. 36a/NQ-CP on e-government, issued in 2014. This includes online public service development, telecommunications infrastructure, and human resources, with the goal of publicizing transparency in State agencies’ activities online. In 2017, to strengthen progress towards Industry 4.0, Prime Minister Phuc issued Directive No. 16/CT-TTg, focusing efforts on preparing human resources and developing the infrastructure needed to implement Industry 4.0 from now to 2020. The government also focused on developing and supporting underlying platforms and infrastructure, including for the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities, open data, information portals, and inter-agency communications.
As a relative newcomer to the digital transformation, Vietnam has studied the experiences of other countries and adopted international criteria for measuring its activities. According to the 2018 UNCTAD Global Cyberlaw Tracker - a global mapping of cyber laws on the adoption of e-commerce legislation, Vietnam’s e-commerce legislation is fairly equal to the remainder of the world in terms of e-transactions (with 78 per cent adoption), consumer protection (38 per cent), data protection / privacy (45 per cent), and cybercrime (70 per cent). Compared to 2014, Vietnam moved up eleven places to 88th among the 193 countries and territories in the United Nations E-Government Survey 2018. It was also one of ten countries jumping from the middle to high subgroup in the E-Government Development Index (EGDI) and ranked sixth in ASEAN.
The government has set a goal of raising its place in the EGDI by 10-15 places by 2020, making it one of the four leading countries in ASEAN by 2025. This is part of the government’s recently-issued Resolution No. 17/NQ-CP defining tasks and solutions on e-government development to 2020 and orientation towards 2025.
At present, however, programs on e-government remain fragmented and differ in each ministry, branch, and locality, with no overall connection to create a platform to improve the operating efficiency of the government and ensure the quality of services for people and businesses. The application of IT to processes and the exchange of e-documents within internal agencies and between State agencies is still limited, according to Dr. Ngo Hai Phan, Head of the Administrative Procedure Reform Department at the Office of the Government. Many units still don’t accept email transactions. Information and data from ministries, branches, and localities are not shared or exchanged smoothly during the process of implementing State management and public service provision.
Therefore, one of the most valuable experiences Vietnam has learned from successful countries is a change of thinking in how to make policies, Professor Nguyen Duc Khuong, Deputy Director of Research and Chair of the Department of Finance, Auditing and Accounting, at the IPAG Business School, told VET. “This change would help policies have the necessary openness and practicality to adapt flexibly to the constantly changing digital economy,” he added. “In the short term, a legal framework is needed for digitalization and data to orient priority fields and construct an implementation framework among economic agents and protect those who join digitalizing activities from risks such as cyber security and data rights.”
The Vietnamese Government has made efforts to build e-government, in which businesses also play an important role in the development roadmap. Mr. Dung told local media that the building of e-government significantly depends on enterprises. “Enterprises will be the main investors according to the government’s plan, and when the project is completed, it will be leased to the government,” he added.
Contributing to the launch of the first e-document on the Document Management and Job Profile system signed by Prime Minister Phuc in mid-March was the Viettel Group, or the Vietnamese Military Industry-Telecoms Group. It features operational management software, including the operations of incoming document management, document-signing management, job management, and electronic records management. Seven-hundred officials and public servants at the Office of the Government use the system every day, handling more than 2 million incoming documents and issuing over 400,000 new documents. The introduction of a “paperless electronic office” also saves on administrative costs, including the cost of copying documents and sending them via the post, totaling up to VND1.1 trillion ($47.4 million) each year.
Brigadier Le Dang Dung, General Director and Standing Chairman of the Viettel Group, said it would continue to work with the Office of the Government to connect ministries and local departments and create a paperless government in the shortest possible time. “With initiative, determination, and a pioneering spirit, we are committed to using resources and investing in advanced technology to quickly implement all tasks entrusted to us by the government,” he said.
BKAV, a Vietnamese technology corporation, has made specific preparations such as joining the 5G platform to provide infrastructure in building a smart country, participating in IoT, smart homes, e-government, and blockchain. Mr. Vu Thanh Thang, Vice Chairman of the BKAV Group, told VET that ministries and agencies have also worked with technology enterprises, including BKAV, to adopt appropriate policies to boost the digital economy. “These policies must contribute to promoting the development of a digital economy in a strong manner, which will create a driving force for domestic technology enterprises to develop, as well as create a foundation for building a smart country and create the momentum for Vietnam’s economy to catch up with developed economies in the world,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ms. Nguyen Anh Tuyet, Business Director at VNPay, said the government needs to have a more open policy for fintechs like VNPay, including non-cash payments, to allow them to develop further.
Policies are a key factor for Vietnam in developing its digital economy, through creating an effective legal environment under which the government can ensure efficient implementation, according to the Vietnam eCommerce and Digital Economy Agency (iDEA) under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT). “The government should play a role in coordinating and supporting enterprises through tariffs, investment, and human resources training policies in the long term,” said Professor Khuong. “It should be also pioneer the implementation of the digital transformation strategy and build open databases to create momentum for the digital economy.”
iDEA is responsible for preparing the Project on the Digital Economy Development in the time to come. Local enterprises, particularly in key fields such as telecommunications and IT infrastructure, will have opportunities to contribute to the process of compiling the draft, as they are subject to impacts from the project.
The legal framework aiming to build the digital economy includes:
- Decision No. 1755/QD - TTg in the National Strategy on “Transforming Vietnam into an Advanced ICT Country” (2010);
- Decision No. 1605/QD-TTg in the National Program on IT Application in the Operations of State Agencies during the 2011-2015 period (2015);
- Decision No. 1819/QD-TTg in the National Program on IT Application in the Operations of State Agencies during the 2016-2020 period (2015);
- Decision No. 392/QD-TTg, targeting information technology development by 2020 with a vision towards 2025 (2015);
- Decision No. 149/QD-TTg, with goals for broadband and telecommunications infrastructure development by 2020 (2016);
- Decision No. 1563/QD-TTg in The E-commerce Development Master Plan in the 2016-2020 period (2016);
- Directive No. 16/CT-TTg (2017), issued by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, to strengthen progress towards Industry 4.0.