Expanding across borders to close the digital gap

March 20, 2023 | 13:00
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In 2023, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) will launch a campaign to support digital technology businesses that are doing business abroad or want to do so.
Expanding across borders to close the digital gap
By Nguyen Manh Hung - Minister of Information and Communications

The MIC aims to organise conferences and forums overseas that will focus on investment promotion, digital trade, and Vietnamese digital technology. It will also advise the government to sign digital partnership agreements with other countries, and establish a consulting group to support businesses that expand past our borders. And each month, the ministry will organise at least one event to help digital technology enterprises do business abroad.

Going abroad means competing with the best. This is the way for our businesses to become internationally competitive. It also brings Vietnam’s knowledge and digital technology to the world, and means Vietnam can contribute to the development of humanity.

Going abroad means taking on new challenges, expanding the knowledge system, and learning to build Vietnam, all to help improve the nation’s standing in the world.

Without doing this, without competition, without conquest, and without revenue from foreign markets, Vietnam cannot become a high-income developed country.

Last year, Vietnamese digital technology enterprises strongly ventured further in foreign markets by investing in business activities, and bringing digital transformation solutions to developed countries. Revenues from overseas markets at Viettel in telecommunications, for example, reached $3 billion, while FPT’s revenues in IT and digital transformation reached $1 billion.

The world has recognised Viettel’s contribution in developing rural telecommunications, closing the digital gap in many countries, from Asia and Africa to Latin America. It has made 5G network equipment and other high-tech products. Elsewhere, Vingroup can make cars to export to the United States. FPT and CMC also provide IT and digital transformation solutions for developed countries like Japan and the US.

Many companies from the first day of establishment have aimed for foreign markets such as NTQ Solutions, SmartOCS, RikkeiSoft, OMI, VMO, and others. There are companies from the very beginning that have set their sights on developing new technologies on par with the world’s top tech groups.

These businesses and entrepreneurs have inspired us and made us believe that it can be done. If hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese digital technology enterprises can do it, Vietnam has the opportunity to turn into a tech dragon.

Vietnam’s IT and digital technology market is not yet a big one. Spending on IT and digital transformation is not substantial, but the number of businesses operating in this field is considerable.

It is because of that competition that we are able to create quality products and services at low prices and successfully exploit the markets that large digital technology companies are leaving open. This offers up the competitiveness to be able to go abroad.

In technology, there is no place for average products. Quality and low-cost products are suitable for this period of digitalisation, when all countries from rich to poor are accelerating digital transformation in a comprehensive manner.

The opportunity for a country like Vietnam to improve its ranking is now. In a settled world, new opportunities are few. For developing countries there are even less; and the opportunity to go abroad can dwindle. In the next 10-20 years, there will be important transitions – from telecommunications infrastructure to digital infrastructure; from IT to digital technology; from individual software to digital platforms; from processing and assembling to making truly Vietnamese-made products, and lots more.

Digital technology becomes the basic production force; digital talent becomes the basic resource; and digital innovation becomes the fundamental driving force of development. Major tech companies are developing digital technology to solve big problems and meet universal needs, such as AI. Imagine that every Vietnamese civil servant in every field has a virtual assistant at the expert level. How much will the state of Vietnam change? How strong will the country develop? Vietnamese digital tech businesses could find opportunities in this area, for example.

Over the years, Vietnam has only created a few unicorns. Maybe it will not be the Vietnamese way. What if a startup company is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and revenues are only trillions of VND, but it is excellent in its field, and the product and the market is number 1 in the world? They would be our Vietnamese unicorns. If we have many excellent digital tech companies that value hundreds of millions of US dollars, then Vietnam will still become a leading digital technology country.

Whatever is done, domestic companies should always think of the Vietnamese way, based on the characteristics and core strength of the country. They should seek to modernise using the latest technology, and help to solve age-old problems.

They should also aim to create products that are easy to use, that can become cheaper, and can become accessible so that modern digital products can reach everyone.

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