E-government for 4.0 closer to reality

October 01, 2019 | 13:00
Amid the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution, Vietnam is seeking experience from a number of countries to develop its e-government in service of a facilitating economy which benefits investors, enterprises, and the public at large. Nguyen Thanh reports.  
e government for 40 closer to reality
E-government for 4.0 closer to reality (illustration photo)

A few weeks ago Mai Tien Dung, Minister, Chairman of the Government Office, and Japanese Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Masatoshi Ishida inked an MoU on developing e-government in Vietnam. Under the deal, both sides will share experience in compiling legal frameworks and policies for the scheme. Moreover, Japan will help train Vietnamese experts and managers of IT services in operating an information system for an e-government. Both nations will also organise conferences on e-government and training workshops. The Japanese side is also considering a non-refundable assistance sum for a technical package for e-government construction in Vietnam.

E-government is considered an effective mechanism for increasing government productivity and efficiency, and is a key enabler of citizen-centric services.

Hunt for experience

According to the Vietnamese Government Office, Japan is one of many nations that Vietnam is co-operating with in developing an effective and efficient e-government. The nations involved include Indonesia, Estonia, France, the UK, the Netherlands, and South Korea. For example, Vietnam and South Korea recently signed an MoU with the latter committing to support the former in boosting effective e-government development.

“Under President Moon Jae-in’s New Southern Policy, co-operation in the field of e-government between Korea and Vietnam will be further reinforced,” reads a statement from South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety. “In particular, mutual co-operation in the field of ­relevant infrastructure, e-document distribution, and cybersecurity is expected to be bolstered, and Korea’s e-government will make accelerated inroads into ASEAN countries.”

South Korea will support Vietnam in improving related laws and institutions, establishing a national data centre,

conducting e-document distribution between central and local governments, integrating and standardising a central-local database, and sharing experiences on cybersecurity.

According to Chairman Dung, many ­nations in the world have been effectively implementing e-government in service of ­investors, enterprises, and people, and this trend is ­approaching Vietnam.

“E-government development in Vietnam is inevitable as it will increase transparency across all activities of the government, pushing back corruption, contributing to socio-economic development, and improving national competitiveness and labour productivity. It is also a path to prosperity for the country,” Dung said. “To make strong breakthroughs, Vietnam must study experiences from the wider world to build up its own effective e-government.”

Currently Vietnam is also co-operating with Indonesia in this regard. Indonesia, an archipelagic country with over 17,000 islands, is home to more than 260 million people. This proves to be a challenge for the government in managing the country efficiently. However, since the 1990s, Indonesia has deployed a national information systems blueprint. In 2016, this nation created an e-government roadmap in which stress is laid on the applications of e-budgeting, e-catalogues, and e-audits, in order to increase transparency in the government system which, in turn, can prevent corruption and improve public services.

Currently, the Southeast Asian region boasts 10 big unicorn startups who are valued at over $1 billion, and e-commerce platform-based operations including Go Jek, Traveloka, Tokopedia, Grab, Lazada, Garena, and VNG. Notably, four of them are from Indonesia, namely Go Jek, Traveloka, Tokopedia, and Bukalapak. These companies are effectively using e-platforms provided by Indonesia to do e-business.

Elsewhere, Estonia has received plaudits for its work in building its e-government and e-state, which provides important lessons for Vietnam and others to learn from. When Estonia started building its information society about two decades ago, there was no digital data being collected on citizens. The general population did not have internet or smartphones. It took great courage to invest in IT solutions and take the information technology route.

IT expert Onnik Indrek, based in the country’s e-Estonia showroom located in the capital city of Tallinn said, “Estonia has by far the most highly-developed electronic ID system in the world, covering over 94 per cent of the population. It is successfully used by the public and private sector, allowing access to digital signatures.”

Currently in Estonia, 100 per cent of all bank transfers are performed online, making bank offices unnecessary, while eliminating fraud and the fear of a grey economy. About 99 per cent of personal income tax returns are filed via the e-tax board. Also, around 99 per cent of medication is prescribed electronically. “Only by exploiting the strength of IT and the internet can Vietnam build a successful e-government as has been done similarly by Estonia,” Indrek told VIR.

According to the Vietnamese Government Office, Vietnam is now also boosting its co-operation in innovation and e-government with Singapore. In 2014, Singapore launched its Smart Nation Initiative, investing $1.6 billion in developing and deploying a national system of sensor networks and supporting communications infrastructure. Singapore invested another $2.8 billion in the initiative in 2016, extending Wi-Fi coverage to all public schools and optimising the government’s data storage capacity.

Great potential

At a recent workshop on Vietnam’s e-government, Deputy Minister Ministry of Information and Communications Nguyen Minh Hong stated that Vietnam has great potential to successfully build up its own e-government.

Vietnam currently ranks 88th out of 193 nations in the world in e-government development, a position that can improve if the Vietnamese government taps into the potential of its internet usage, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

With a population of nearly 100 million people, Vietnam is among a few nations in Southeast Asia with high growth in digital transformation. Currently Vietnam has more than 136 million mobile phone subscribers, and 54.2 per cent of the population are connected to broadband wire-based internet.

Vietnam is one of 17 nations in the world with the biggest number of internet users. The Vietnamese government also aims to turn the country into one of the 10 largest software and digital content producing nations in the world in the near future.

According to experts, with its potential, it is necessary for Vietnam now to build Industry 4.0 technology, related infrastructure, data security, and an e-government that will help increase efficiencies of government and Vietnamese firms as well as foster the faster adoption, adaptation, and application of Industry 4.0 technologies. It will also enable Vietnam to better utilise domestic data resources for growth. Expansion of e-payments starting from government payments and e-banking and e-commerce platforms will help the country succeed in developing its own e-government and businesses.

A few months ago, Vietnam’s government launched an electronic system for the government’s cabinet meetings and work settlement.

The system, known as e-Cabinet, was developed within three months and is considered an important step for the government to create a new-look administration and hit its prime target of establishing an e-government, which is considered an effective mechanism for increasing government productivity and efficiency. It is expected that the e-Cabinet will help the government reduce meeting time by 30 per cent, and by the end of the year the e-Cabinet also hopes to see a paperless government, with 100 per cent of electronic documents used during meetings.

All 31 ministries and ministerial-level agencies, 63 localities, and the Party Central Committee Office have adopted the platform. The e-Cabinet is expected to save VND1.2 trillion ($52.2 million) per year in stationery, deliveries, and other expenses.

“The e-Cabinet will efficiently support the government in conducting its meetings as it embraces all necessary functions, such as updating, managing, and storing dossiers and documents, as well as managing the ­meetings’ processes – from ­participants, agenda, and speeches, to discussion, feedback, document amendments, and voting with digital signatures,” said Minister, Chairman Dung.

Through the system, all e-documents will be sent to cabinet members for them to review before a meeting starts. Any government members ­absent from meetings can ­provide their ideas and voting via their mobile phones.

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