Blog: IFB Abroad, The Vietnam Edition
4 July 2013
Having just returned from a trip of a lifetime to Vietnam, I enjoyed seeing some spectacular scenery, ate some delicious food (no dog… I dont think!) and experienced some crazy driving – if you have visited this part of the world, you will know what I mean!
It is always interesting to experience new cultures, and as part of a technology company, very interesting to see how technology is consumed and experienced in the country, in comparison to back home.
Some may think that Vietnam is a little behind the west in terms of technology – in some ways that is very true and in some ways, not so much.
When you see the way Vietnamese transport things from one place to another
Or when you look up and all you see is a tangled mess of telephone polls
You may think that Vietnam still has some way to go.
But, on the other hand Vietnam is one of the fastest growing technology markets in the world and is home to many large tech company factories, like Canon, where you will see hundreds of workers in the same uniforms promptly starting for work each morning. In addition to the huge factories there are 750 software companies in Vietnam and 150 outsourcing firms.
What surprised me was the almost unlimited access to free WIFI wherever you go. With bars and cafes often advertising free WIFI on their menu’s and signs, you can always choose from a few free WIFI options wherever you were. In the major cities, there are public wireless networks to provide free WIFI anywhere in the city. For example Hoi An has 350 transmitters in order to provide public internet access anywhere in the city. (They also have world famous tailors who can make almost any garment you want within 24 hours, but that is beside the point).
With Vietnam being a Communist country, it has one of the most censored internet’s in the world, which surprised me with the amount of readily available free wifi throughout the country.
Which led me to do a bit of research on the Internet in Vietnam…
Vietnam has been connected to the Internet since 1997, after 6 years of cautious experimenting. Most of the 16 ISP’s are directly or indirectly controlled by the party, who have the authority to block access to sites that displease them – some of these ISP’s block facebook and some don’t and can even jail people posting inappropriate content.
A cyber army of 80,000, known as the ‘Digital Police Agency’ monitor and control all content that passes through the web and blocks unwanted content. The Government say they block citizens access to harmful content, although the definition of what is harmful can be portrayed differently. Although the Vietnamese people know they are being monitored, the extent to which people are monitored is top secret.
As a westerner (which I was often referred to in Vietnam) to me this seems too ‘Big Brother for my liking’. But, with the recent PRISM allegations, in which the National Security Agency have been keeping tabs on our data for years at least the Vietnamese are aware they are being monitored.
Digital Vietnam v’s Digital Scotland
The Vietnamese Government have ambitious targets of growing the value of hi-tech products to 45% of GDP and increasing the transactional value of the science and technology market by 15% by 2020, which shows that technology will be a major focus for growth within the country.
When we compare this to Digital Scotland which focuses on superfast broadband, ensuring everyone who wants access to technology can have it and flourishing the digital economy there is a clear difference in focus on what is best to take the country forward.
So when thinking of a common South East Asian phrase ‘Same, same, but different’ I have come to the conclusion that both countries want to use technology to better their country, but in different ways using very different controls.
Laura Walker, Marketing Co-ordinator: IFB