Vietnam is moving rapidly toward a networked society. Mobile penetration has jumped from just 20% in 2005 to more than 100% last year. The country has more than 91 million mobile subs compared to a population of 87 million. 3G subs account for only 11% of total mobile subs. But with about 80% of the population covered by 3G networks and smartphones accounting for just 10% of handset sales, there is plenty of room for growth, especially as prices of high-end devices drop.
ICT is now playing an increasingly important role in enabling collaboration between different industries, the government as well as citizens. The result is better, more accessible and more affordable services.
Telecom Asia, in partnership with Ericsson, organized a roundtable discussion in Hanoi last month with service providers and government officials to gain insight into how a more connected Vietnam will impact public- and private-sector services. The panel also tried to identify the key opportunity areas as well as the main challenges in the up-take of such things as m-health, e-education and e-government.
The event, moderated by Telecom Asia group editor Joseph Waring, was attended by Nguyen Thanh Tuyen, deputy director general for the Department of Information Technology, Nguyen Phong Nha, deputy director general for the Authority of Telecommunications, Mai Liem Truc, former vice minister and telecom advisor, Vietnamobile CTO Desmond Cheung, Vinaphone director of VAS center Ngo Dien Hy, Value Partners partner Zoran Vasiljev and Jan Wassenius, Ericsson's president of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Wassenius pointed out that the cost of sensors has dropped to the point where there's now a more viable business case for using them in M2M applications. "We're all coming to the inflection point where this will happen - it's not a matter of whether or not it will happen. And then we have to look at how it will affect society," he said.
Vietnamobile's Cheung noted that the key driver for M2M applications is cost reduction. "A company will do more machine-to-machine if they can save costs."
He said the country's electricity authority has more than 10,000 people to handle just collections - and that doesn't include those reading the meters. He noted that this area is ripe for saving resources, which could be better deployed in some other part of the economy.