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Software and Internet promise new economy

Despite Internet censorship, IT imperative drives nation

Theres no clearer sign that Vietnam is opening up than the use of the Internet. Although still in its infancy, there are perhaps only 200,000 registered Internet users in the country an increase of more than 250% since 1997 but still less than 0.2% of the 80 million population and far below the regional norm, but go to any of the hundreds of cafes located in Hanoi and HCMC, and witness the scores of young people logging on to their Yahoo and Hotmail accounts. Some astute observers say the country may easily have over 600,000 such addresses.

Although, Vietnams Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Culture and Information established a restrictive firewall, used to block access to select websites deemed or viewed as a social evil, this blanket policy on proper policing of the new technology is not diminishing the emergence of an IT imperative.

Information technology must be made a compulsory subject in schools to create a body of skilled workers for the emerging e-society, proclaims Quach Tuan Ngoc, director of the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET)s IT Center.

Aside from the imposing problem of censorship, the infrastructure issues remain a challenge, including a narrow bandwidth, but access rates are steadily falling each quarter. The newly built software park Quang Trung Software City, located in Saigon, signals theres a strong movement afoot to develop a software industry with growth anticipated to reach $340 million in 2005.

We intend to invest up to $30 million in developing IT in the 2002-2005 period and attract up to $300 million in foreign investment to implement IT development programs, expressed Dr. Nguyen Thien Nhan, the charismatic Standing Vice Chairman of the Peoples Committee of HCMC.

InternationalReports.net / The Washington Times 1994-2002

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