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COVID-19 Drives Digital Development in Vietnam

Image credit: Ministry of Information and Communications

As Ho Chi Minh City and several southern provinces are facing widespread issues with COVID-19, digital transformation efforts are being taken more seriously. According to a press release, Minister of Information and Communications (MIC), Nguyen Manh Hung, said that the ongoing pandemic is creating a new long-term push for digital transformation.

Ho Chi Minh City and neighbouring cities and provinces should take this opportunity to accelerate digital transformation to a new level in preparation for a new normal. As a result, 2025-2030 targets in IT applications and digital transformation may be achieved sooner if localities understand how to take advantage, the Minister said. For instance, if cities and provinces can integrate COVID-19 vaccinations with electronic medical records, the vast majority will have access to such e-records much sooner than the target for the country to fulfil this in 5-10 years.

MIC has developed the application for COVID-19 vaccination integrated with electronic records, and now cities and provinces must apply it. The ministry has spent 20 years on the development of e-government and a decade on the development of e-public services. However, for example, in Ho Chi Minh City, the rate of providing e-public services at Level 4 reaches just 15% and the rate of documents settled online has hit just 22%. Meanwhile, 78% of people still have to complete documents offline. If we suspend providing direct public services during social distancing, all public services will go online at Level 4 within several months, and all people will be able to access e-public services.

Additionally, during the pandemic, cities and provinces are able to ask local hospitals to have online diagnosis and treatment services, enabling locals to access healthcare at home and easing traffic jams and hospital overloads. It also helps lower infection risks. After the pandemic, hospitals will have e-healthcare services and will create a foundation for future digital transformation.

In the education sector, cities and provinces have asked schools to have 10-30% of subjects taught online, and online exams have taken place during the pandemic. Some universities will be developed into digitalised ones, and online modes of learning will be implemented for junior and senior secondary schools and tertiary education.

The suspension of supermarkets during social distancing has contributed to the fast-track development of e-commerce, which is an important part of a digital economy. As more and more people gain the habit of online shopping, the target of having a digital economy to make up 20-25% of GDP in 2025 is achievable. Without the pandemic, it would take decades to achieve this, the Minister claimed.

The acceleration of this transformation creates development opportunities for digital-led businesses, and outstanding digital businesses have already emerged since the pandemic began. In the prevention and fight against COVID-19, if cities and provinces strictly apply technology in fast and accurate tracing, the country will be able to avoid wide blockades and quarantine of huge numbers of people.

The ministry has developed three necessary technologies for fast tracing: a travel itinerary for the last 14 days, the QRC, and the Bluezone app. These technologies save costs, increase efficiency, and help keep pandemic prevention smart. The government has initiated programmes to prevent and battle the pandemic, as well as to accelerate digital transformation to develop e-government, a digital economy and wider digital society. This pandemic event should be considered as a once-in-a-century opportunity for digital transformation, the Minister said.

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