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Vietnam’s leading over-the-top (OTT) app, Zalo, officially launched its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered voice virtual assistant in Vietnamese, called Kiki, at the 2020 Zalo AI Summit, earlier this week. The technology offers services to assist driving, listening to music, and language translating. It can help with calculations, weather updates, and has an information search command.

According to a news report, the initiative marks a new stage in applying AI to the daily life of Vietnamese people. At the summit, the fourth of its kind, speakers from Zalo AI Lab, AWS, and JAIST focused on discussing topics concerning the application of AI to reality and how to make AI more popular with the Vietnamese people.

The Executive Vice President Vuong Quang Khai of VNG Corporation (the owner of Zalo), explained that with its superior speed in transmitting messages compared to other input methods, natural voice is the most effective means of communication between humans and computers. In the next five to ten years, voice will become a primary tool for humans in communicating with computers.

Tran Manh Hiep, the admin of the Tinhte.vn tech forum, said, “What I like most about Kiki is that the language is very natural, bringing the feeling of chatting with a real person without any strangeness.” Hiep also presented Kiki’s features for in cars, including offering directions, playing music, and answering knowledge questions.

The 2020 Zalo AI Summit welcomed two guests from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST), who have directly implemented AI in many fields of business and life. My Nguyen, a representative of AWS, shared how to operate the machine learning system, one of the important aspects of AI development.

Speaking via videoconference from Japan, Professor Nguyen Le Minh, Director of JAIST’s Explainable AI Centre, touched upon the solution of using the natural language processing system to help scientists better obtain information, thus contributing to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, such as in-depth research on the virus, exploring the symptoms of the disease, psychological problems occurring under quarantine and combating fake news.

Vietnam also recently unveiled its first indigenously-developed data mining platform, the Vietell Data Mining Platform. It aims to help governments and businesses make decisions through their own data understanding, at a more affordable cost than foreign platforms.

As OpenGov reported, the platform provides real-time information or reports instead of having to synthesise information from many different sources, increasing employee productivity by 30% in terms of extracting information and making a report.

In addition to the application of AI technologies, the platform also integrates specialised knowledge from sectors such as marketing, asset management, finance, and risk management, to help optimise operations in an enterprise. Similar to Kiki, the platform has been designed according to the specific data demands of Vietnamese businesses to ensure in-depth analyses, in line with the goal of creating a digital society in Vietnam.

5G mobile network is under commercial trial in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City. Vietnam is among the few countries in the world that have put 5G into trial use.

Nguyen Phong Nha, the Deputy Director of the Telecommunications Authority noted that Vietnam aims for nationwide 5G coverage by 2030. By that time, people will be able to access broadband Internet at low costs. To achieve the goal, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has built a telecommunication development strategy, setting targets for upgrading 4G infrastructure and commercialising 5G soon, a press release has explained.

To date, three network operators, namely Viettel, MobiFone, and VinaPhone, have licenses to provide 5G services on a trial basis. A representative of the Telecommunication Authority said that along with providing mobile network services, businesses can develop software and devices for 5G. This is a challenge but also an opportunity for Vietnam to join the terminal market.

The trial of 5G is an opportunity for network operators to build reasonable business models and anticipate costs before 5G services are officially licensed. After the trial period, network operators will have to submit reports on the results of the trial in terms of technical features, commercial potential, and market demand, so that MIC can perfect the legal basis.

Nha said the deployment of 5G in Vietnam will depend on market demand. 5G may not cover the entire country immediately. At first, it will be available in larger cities such as Hanoi, Da Nang, and HCM City. The cities have been chosen for 5G deployment because these are areas with a high density of mobile device users and high requirements on speed. Further, 5G may also be deployed in industrial zones and areas where there is a demand for smart factories. MIC hopes the services will be launched in 2021.

According to VinaPhone, technical experiments in Hanoi and HCM City showed that the download speed of 5G is ten times higher than 4G, while the latency is ten times lower. As for MobiFone, the network operator has finished the installation and is testing 5G speed. In standard conditions, the download speed is 1.3 Gbps. The speed is expected to increase.

According to Viettel, there are about 8,000 terminal devices compatible with 5G on its entire network. However, due to the narrow coverage area, only several hundred devices have been connected with the testing network. The average speed is 500-600 Mbps.

Apart from 5G trials, Viettel is joining forces with Vingroup to develop 5G broadcasting equipment. The equipment made locally accounts for 15% of total transceiver equipment being tried by the network operator.

The number of 5G subscribers nationwide is expected to reach a figure of 6.3 million by 2025, with the deployment of 5G services anticipated to help Vietnamese mobile service providers increase their annual revenue by US$300 million, as OpenGov Asia reported earlier.

To keep up with demand, Vietnam needs to invest between US$1.5 billion and US$2.5 billion in the technology over the next five years. The country will face several obstacles in terms of the cost of equipment and services, limited network coverage, and the adverse impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a press release, the Vietnamese government is pursuing an industry 4.0 strategy, with a specific focus on upgrading infrastructure, improving human resources, and deploying e-government services. E-commerce transformation is expected to boost the number of electronic firms to 43% over the next five years.

The Viettel Data Mining Platform, developed by the military-run telecoms group Viettel, was launched by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) at a ceremony in Hanoi, earlier this week.

The launch is part of a chain of events to introduce Made-in-Vietnam digital platforms to serve the National Digital Transformation Programme to 2025 with a vision to 2030 approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in June.

According to a news report, the Viettel Data Mining Platform, the first developed by the Vietnamese people for businesses in Vietnam, aims to help governments and businesses make decisions through their own data understanding, at a more affordable cost than foreign platforms.

The platform provides real-time information or reports instead of having to synthesise information from many different sources, increasing employee productivity by 30% in terms of extracting information and making a report.

In addition to the application of artificial intelligence technologies, the Viettel Data Mining Platform also integrates specialised knowledge from sectors such as marketing, asset management, finance, and risk management, to help optimise operations in an enterprise.

The Viettel Data Mining Platform has been designed according to the specific data demands of each business to ensure in-depth analyses, in line with the goal of creating a digital society in Vietnam.

Further, to provide a reporting system that helps governments and businesses make smart decisions and recommends sales based on data science, the platform also features anomaly detection and warns of risks or abnormalities in the transaction data of units.

This is the fourth technology product in a series of nearly 40 Made-in-Vietnam technology products tested, selected, and introduced by the MIC in 2020. According to Dang Duc Thao, Deputy Director of the Viettel Cyberspace Centre, with the digital platforms, Viettel’s technology products will participate in promoting the development and application of artificial intelligence and other new technologies across all fields, creating breakthroughs in the national digital transformation programme.

The programme aims to get Vietnam to rank in the top 70 and 50 countries in the E-Government Development Index (EGDI) by 2025 and 2030, respectively. It also expects to rank among the top 40 and top 30 in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) by 2025 and 2030, respectively.

As OpenGov Asia reported, the government aims to have as many level-4 online public services as possible. Ministerial and provincial-level work dossiers must be processed online, and inspections should be carried out online as well. All reports and statistic indicators will be digitally connected.

By 2025, the country plans to have fibre optic Internet infrastructure that covers more than 80% of households and 100% of communes. Also, over half of the population should have digital checking accounts, the figure is expected to be more than 80% in 2030. By 2030, fibre optic Internet should be available nationwide, along with 5G networks and services.

The increase in digitalisation has also drawn attention to the need for cybersecurity. More than 1.6 million cyberattacks over the first half of 2020 targeted small and medium-sized enterprises in Southeast Asia. For Vietnam, healthcare and education are the two most-targeted sectors for cyberattacks, which is why the government has prioritised securing these segments first.

The number of 5G subscriptions in Vietnam is forecasted to reach 6.3 million by 2025, according to a report on 5G development in Southeast Asia.

According to a press release, Vietnam and Singapore are expected to be the first countries in the region to roll out the latest wireless communications technology in 2020-2021. The report noted that the market penetration in Vietnam in the early stage of 5G implementation will be lower than that in Indonesia and Thailand, but growth is projected to accelerate in the later stage.

The early launch of 5G services could help Vietnamese mobile carriers increase revenues by US$300 million a year, starting from 2025. However, they need to invest about US$1.5-2.5 billion in technology during the 2020-2025 period.

Last year, Vietnam’s e-government development index ranked 88th out of 193 countries, of which the online public services index jumped 10 places to rank 59th out of 193 countries in comparison to 2016. The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) recently announced it has required network operators to upgrade mobile number portability rates to 80%. Statistics from the MIC showed that the number of successful network transfers from the beginning to the end of the third quarter of this year reached 77.3%.

Apart from developing a robust 5G infrastructure, the country is also working towards expanding fibre-optic Internet connectivity. Recently, the Vietnam Internet Association hosted Internet Day 2020, marking the 23rd year since Vietnam became part of the global internet network.

With the theme “Digital Transformation in Vietnam: From Aspiration to Reality”, the event’s discussions centred around cloud computing, 5G Services, e-payments and mobile money, blockchain, free and open-source software (FOSS), and “Make-in-Vietnam” digital technologies.

Speaking at the event, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Huy Dung said 2020 marks the start of national digital transformation. Vietnam must seize the opportunities to promote faster, stronger, and broader digital transformation, with governmental bodies, enterprises, and the community together becoming engaged, he said.

Vietnam is among the top 20 countries with the highest number of internet users, according to Chairman of the Vietnam Internet Association Vu Hoang Lien. Internet Day 2020 aims to help stakeholders translate digital transformation goals into reality, he added.

The country’s digital economy reached US$14 billion this year, a year-on-year increase of 16%, making it among the best performers in the region. Its digital society index also saw a modest improvement this year, rising 12 points from 2019, according to a report from GSMA Intelligence.

To accelerate digital transformation, Vietnam needs to expand its Internet access and look towards universal Internet access, said Nguyen Trong Duong, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Information and Communications’ Computerisation Agency.

The country should also focus on developing national digital infrastructure to meet booming demand for the Internet of Things (IoT), smart devices, and machine-to-machine communications, growing digital platform ecosystems and expanding the national cyberspace by increasing “Make in Vietnam” digital platforms, he noted.

The Vietnam Digital Transformation Day (DX Day 2020) event, themed “National Digital Transformation: Sharing and Connectivity”, opened in Hanoi on 14 December.

The event was co-hosted by the Vietnam Software and IT Services Association (VINASA), the Ministry of Information and Communications’ Authority of Information Technology Application, and the Hanoi Promotion Agency.

At the event, domestic and foreign speakers shared their experiences and difficulties in digital transformation in several nations. On the occasion, VINASA held a ceremony to announce and honour the top ten most outstanding Vietnamese information technology firms of the year.  The organisers said they received over 170 applications from 100 enterprises, which went through three rounds of judgement by industry experts and government officials before the finalists were selected.

The awards cover various categories such as software export, business process outsourcing, financial technology, e-government solution provision, digital content, IoT, digital transformation platforms, digital infrastructure, security, digital transformation services and solutions, digital marketing, smart city solutions, IT services and solutions, IT training, and start-up businesses.

According to a press release, their products will assist domestic firms in digital transformation and create an ecosystem to push forward the process in the country. Politburo member Nguyen Thien Nhan noted that the ICT sector now contributes to 14.3% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), becoming key in the economy.

To raise its productivity ten-fold, he highlighted a need to digitalise databases, develop digital infrastructure, build high-tech parks, and especially build a contingent of qualified human resources in the field.

According to VINASA statistics, the total revenue of the top ten ICT companies surpassed VND 1.9 trillion (US$ 82.6 million) last year, accounting for over 76% of the sector’s total. Their software export earnings topped 4.9 trillion VND, making up nearly 24% of the combined.

The special publication featuring the top ten Vietnamese ICT companies in English, Japanese, and Vietnamese languages will be introduced to over 2,000 domestic agencies and units, more than 10,000 partners from around 100 economies worldwide, and trade promotion events in the US, Japan, Europe, the Republic of Korea, and Australia.

Following the National Digital Transformation Programme through 2025 and orientations towards 2030, the country has been pushing for the digitalisation of several sectors of the economy. Firstly, it plans to get Vietnam to rank in the top 70 and 50 countries in the E-Government Development Index (EGDI) by 2025 and 2030, respectively. Secondly, it expects to rank among the top 40 and top 30 in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) by 2025 and 2030, respectively. Lastly, it aims to rank among the top 35 and 30 countries in the Global Innovation Index (GII) by 2025 and 2030, respectively.

The government aims to have as many level-4 online public services as possible. Ministerial and provincial-level work dossiers must be processed online, and inspections should be carried out online as well. Further, all reports and statistic indicators will be digitally connected.

By 2025, the country plans to have fibre optic Internet infrastructure that covers more than 80% of households and 100% of communes. Also, over half of the population should have digital checking accounts, the figure is expected to be more than 80% in 2030. By 2030, fibre optic Internet should be available nationwide, along with 5G networks and services.

The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) launched ezCloud, a tourism business and management platform to help local enterprises adapt to the fourth industrial revolution.

The platform, inaugurated in Hanoi, was created by ezCloud Global Technology Ltd. and can be used to help hoteliers simplify both their management and business operations. For example, the platform can be utilised to supervise all activities going on at a hotel, such as monitoring the number of guests, revenue, reservations, room availability, and check-in and check-out activity.

According to a press release, it also provides tools for firms to sell accommodation services and entertainment tickets through a variety of devices, including mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Further, customers will be able to directly connect with businesses to take part in online transactions from the website or on social networks.

During the platform’s launching ceremony, MIC Deputy Minister Nguyen Huy Dung proposed that the MIC’s Computerisation Department should work closely alongside the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism to inform travel firms about the ezCloud platform so that they can make use of the latest technology.

The ezCloud platform has been active in the Vietnamese market for the past five years, with many travel firms utilising it as a digital tool to simplify their operational management. Currently, the platform is present in five countries, while it already has over 6,000 customers in the Vietnamese market.

The Computerisation Department originally chose to introduce the Make-in-Vietnam technology platform to support the digital transformation of enterprises as part of the National Digital Transformation Programme by 2025 towards 2030, following the approval granted by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in June.

In November, MIC launched a similar platform to automate corporate processes- the akaBot. It was the FPT Group’s third make-in-Vietnam platform. It is among 33 other platforms selected by MIC to introduce and sponsor media in the “Friday of Technology” initiative.

According to the development team, akaBot is a robotic process automation (RPA) solution for businesses with “virtual assistants” capable of simulating human manipulation, helping perform repetitive tasks in large numbers.

As OpenGov reported earlier, with the core technology of RPA, akaBot is capable of integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and optical character recognition (OCR) technology to build comprehensive, non-invasive intelligent automation solutions, which can interact with all business software such as Word and Excel.

The two previous FPT platforms that were chosen were the FPT.AI and akaChain. All three platforms are in FPT’s ecosystem of digital transformation solutions to support businesses and organisations to increase productivity, save costs, and maximise resources to overcome crises and to keep growing.

The development and commercialisation of technology platforms including AkaBot is a big move for the FPT Group, from providing outsourcing services to creating and mastering core technologies and developing platform products for national digital transformation.

With Vietnam being one of the largest targets for cyberattacks in the world, enhancing information safety is a crucial issue the country needs to address as it aims for complete digital transformation.

Along with digital transformation, it is necessary to build a capable workforce specialised in cybersecurity, the Minister of Information and Communication (MIC) Nguyen Manh Hung said during the annual International Conference and Exhibition Vietnam Information Security Day, held last week.

The country must also continually update its technologies to protect the national cyberspace better. Stimulating digital transformation has made Vietnam more vulnerable to cyber threats. A press statement quoted a report, which said more than 1.6 million cyberattacks over the first half of 2020 targeted small and medium-sized enterprises in Southeast Asia. Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam experienced the largest number of attacks.

The rise in the attacks has skyrocketed since March when COVID-19 reached its first peak, and the entire country was social distancing. Cybercriminals took advantage of the chaos to perform non-technical attacks such as fraud via sending e-mails, an industry expert explained. By attaching coronavirus-related topics to messages, the rate of clicking on attachments containing malware sharply increased from that time.

During the first nine months of the year, Vietnam ranked 18th in the number of cyberattacks. In the first quarter of this year, the country saw about 838 attacks. In the second and the third quarter, the number soared by 27.3% and 7.5% on-year, respectively.

The release noted that enhancing security in healthcare and education is the primary objective because, under the National Digital Transformation Programme to 2025, these sectors will be the first to be digitalised.

Improving the security of healthcare, education, or any segment should be based on first classifying data based on its nature into categories that can be shared with the public and sensitive information that can only be shared with users with certain credentials, among others.

Further, Do Lap Hien, deputy director at the e-government Centre of the Authority of IT Application under MIC, explained that the government launched a portal to share information inside ministries and with the public. However, it remains a work in progress and offers limited functionality.

“The initial design of the website was to provide and share data within the local government,” Hien said. “Afterwards, we added the function of providing open data for businesses and local people. We are completing the function.”

According to information published at the conference, healthcare and education are the two most-targeted sectors for cyberattacks. For healthcare, protecting patient databases has been a major concern for most hospitals. Meanwhile, protecting children from harmful content while they use learning documents online has been a serious issue for parents. According to data published by MobiFone, last year nearly 200,000 children were attacked on the Internet, much higher than the 2018 estimate of just under 45,000.

Despite the increasing number of cybersecurity services providers, there is a small number of individuals and organisations satisfied with the related solutions offered by companies, according to the Vietnam Software and IT Services Association.

Vietnam has carried out digital transformation programmes for enterprises and dialogues between companies and senior leaders of ASEAN countries to turn the region into a hub for innovative and sustainable start-up development.

These activities also accelerate digital transformation and technology start-up growth in ASEAN, the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) said in a press release. ASEAN countries have an advantage with about 60% of the population under 35 years old, promising strong start-up potential. Therefore, Vietnam has organised an ASEAN startup forum to discuss promoting start-up co-operation in the bloc.

Digital STARS Showcase 2020

Ngo Dien Hy, General Director of VNPT Information Technology Company (VNPT-IT) said the Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Corporation (VNPT) and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) have signed a deal to support the domestic enterprises in implementing digital transformation.

Under the agreement, VNPT will work with VCCI and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) to implement the Digital STARS Showcase 2020 project, which intends to build a network connecting technology start-ups in ASEAN to create opportunities to exchange experience, expand partnerships and promote digital transformation.

Pham Dinh Doan, an ASEAN BAC member, explained that the Digital STARS showcase will display innovative and practical digital transformation solutions for firms to upgrade their business models and participate in the digital economy, especially micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

The Digital STARS Showcase 2020 has had more than 100 solutions from large companies and potential start-ups since it was launched in September. The system of those solutions is expected to expand to other ASEAN countries to build a common database on regional digital transformation.

At present, digital transformation models are creating convenient services. However, this kind of model also brings difficulties for local start-ups because it fundamentally changes the traditional business model and poses new challenges.

To survive and thrive in an age of constantly changing technology, domestic start-ups must change because they could go under if they are slow to carry out digital transformation. The Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Bui The Duy noted that they should choose small projects for digital transformation. That would reduce damages and take experiences to implement digital transformation in larger projects.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still complex and hindering business activities in the ASEAN region. However, according to a report on digital transformation supporting enterprises amid COVID-19 published by the VCCI and VNPT, the pandemic is driving domestic enterprises to promote digital transformation.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly has requested the government to issue a plan to ensure cyber information security for 2021-2025.

The government is also required to strictly manage foreign digital platforms, promote the development of social networks in the country, and issue an e-Government Development Strategy.

By 2021, Vietnam aims to have complete national databases and platforms to promote national digital transformation. MIC will issue solutions to support and accelerate digital transformation, especially in enterprises.

Over the last few months, Vietnamese firms have mainly digitalised operations in management, logistics, and marketing activities but in production. Enterprises have gradually improved to carry out digital transformation, but the transformation is basic. The digitalisation rate in products and services is still low due to barriers like high costs, lack of infrastructure for digital transformation, corporate data leakages, and a lack of qualified workers. Therefore, besides developing infrastructure, the government needs to give financial support for local enterprises in implementing digital transformation and justify rules about data management.

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