Partnerships sought to develop e-government

With Industry 4.0 knocking on the doors of Vietnam, the country is seeking experiences from many developed countries to realise its dream about an e-government system to benefit people and the business community. How can the country localise these experiences to realise this dream? 

E-governmental development will become a new co-operation sector between Vietnam and some countries in the time to come.

As scheduled, in the first quarter of 2019, the Russian government will assign a group of senior experts to Vietnam to work with the country’s Government Office about specific plans to support Vietnam to successfully develop an e-government.

E-government refers to the use of electronic communications devices, computers, and the Internet to provide public services to citizens and other persons.

Earlier, during Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s official visit to Vietnam on November 18-19, 2018, the two nations committed to expand their bilateral co-operation from energy, industry, transport, and agriculture to IT, digital technology, and e-government.

“As Russia has considerable expertise in science and technology, and holds particular strength in cybersecurity, Vietnam hopes to learn from its experience to build its e-government,” stated Mai Tien Dung, Minister-Chairman of the Government Office.

In December 2018, the Government Office and the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on ensuring cybersecurity in e-government development.

At present in Russia, more than 70 million people are using e-government services.

Seeking global support

Vietnam’s development strategy defines the development and application of IT in the operation of all government agencies as key in the national industrialisation and modernisation process. This is aimed to create a more facilitating government in favour of people and the business community.

However, a lack of resources and experience in e-government development has prompted the country to look outside its borders for the necessary experience and know-how, at nations such as Russia, Singapore, Indonesia, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, and South Korea.

Vietnam has also inked an MoU on e-government co-operation with South Korea.

The co-operation will support Vietnam in improving e-government-related laws and institutions, establishing a national data centre, conducting e-document distribution between central and local governments, integrating and standardising central and local databases, and sharing experiences on cybersecurity.

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

In another case, Vietnam is also learning from the experiences of Indonesia to develop its e-government.

Indonesia, an archipelagic country with over 17,000 islands, is a home to over 260 million people. This proves to be a challenge for the government to manage the country efficiently. However, since the 1990s, Indonesia has been deploying a blueprint called “National Information Systems.” In 2016, it created an e-government roadmap laying the stress on the applications of e-budgeting, e-catalogues, and e-auditing. This raises transparency in the government system which in turn can prevent corruption and improve public services.

Currently, the Southeast Asian region has the 10 biggest unicorn startups, valued at more than $1 billion, and e-commerce platform-based operations, including Go-Jek, Traveloka, Tokopedia, Bukalapak, Grab, Lazada, Sea, Garena, Razer, and VNG. Four of them – namely Go Jek, Traveloka, Tokopedia, and Bukalapak – are from Indonesia. These startups are effectively using e-platforms provided by Indonesia to do e-business.

Meanwhile, Singapore has also been working with Vietnam to help develop its e-government. The island state is also a great example for Vietnam to follow and learn from.

In November 2014, Singapore launched its Smart Nation Initiative, investing $1.6 billion in the development and deployment of a national system of sensor networks and supporting communications infrastructure.

Singapore invested another $2.8 billion in the initiative in 2016 to extend Wi-fi coverage to every public school, optimise and increase the government’s data storage capacity, and provide all public servants with laptops over the next three to five years.

Lim Teng Leng, deputy director of the Centre for Liveable Cities under Singapore’s Ministry of National Development, told VIR that besides adopting ICT, Singapore also consistently innovates itself to prepare for new challenges: from transforming this country’s physical environment and enhancing its industrial productivity to improving public sector service standards and planning for communities with stronger ties.

“The comprehensive smart nation vision unveiled in 2014 signifies a move to harness efforts mobilising the whole of society to leverage digital technology. The goal is to become a leading economy powered by digital innovation and a world-class city with a government that gives our citizens the best homes possible and respond to their different changing needs,” Leng said. “At the heart of this vision is the people: people who should be empowered with the additional capabilities to take control of their daily experiences, who will enjoy faster commutes and convenience in daily activities, and who will gain opportunities to improve their standard of living.”

Minister Dung also stressed that Estonia is also a bright example for Vietnam to develop its e-government.

When the northern European nation started building its information society 20 years ago, there was no digital data being collected about its citizens. The general population did not have Internet or even devices with which to use it. It took this nation’s government great courage to invest in IT solutions and take the information technology route.

Currently, Estonia has the most highly-developed electronic ID system in the world, covering over 99 per cent of the population. The system allows all people and enterprises to use digital signatures.

In Estonia, 100 per cent of bank transfers are performed online, making bank offices unnecessary, eliminating fraud and the fear of a grey economy. All personal income tax returns are filed via the e-tax board, and all medication is prescribed electronically.

What to do

Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing told VIR that for Vietnam to build out an effective e-government system benefiting enterprises and investors, the country should apply ICT achievements which will help businesses access data from government agencies transparently.

“All investors want a predictable and transparent business climate, because they have to consider how effective their investments in your country will be,” Ching said. “Our strategic positioning within the ASEAN, longstanding investments in research and development, our skilled workforce, and pro-business environment put Singapore in a strong position to continually attract talent, ideas, capital, and create good jobs.”

Meanwhile, Ousmane Dione, the World Bank’s country director for Vietnam, suggested that Vietnam needs to grasp integrated digital solutions.

“The government should adopt a holistic approach to how technology can support reforms for impact and transform its development outcomes,” he said.

An interoperable infrastructure, as a foundation, would strengthen government-to-government (G2G), government-to-business (G2B), and government-to-citizen (G2C) relationships, optimise government investments, and link central-level agencies, national, and sub-national governments, he said.

“Let’s take a look at Estonia as an example. The country did it at the start of its e-Estonia digital journey, and as a result has gained 2 per cent in its GDP. The system enables an Estonian to establish a company in just 18 minutes,” Dione said. “With over 99 per cent of state services online, Estonia boasts of saving 800 hours of working time every year through e-Estonia. Another enviable side effect is that twice as many students pursue IT careers in Estonia than the average in other OECD countries.”

In a bid to realise Vietnam’s dream to streamline government procedures with online technologies, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has established a national committee on e-government, demonstrating the government’s strong determination to wholly transform the way the governmental system works.

Under the decision, the new committee “is responsible for researching and proposing to the government and the prime minister strategies and policies to create a legal environment favourable to building and developing the country’s e-government. The committee will also make it favourable for Vietnam to deploy its own Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The committee is in charge of “supporting the government and the prime minister to direct ministries, agencies, and localities to implement goals, tasks, and solutions in developing the e-government,” stated Decision No.1072/QD-TTg on setting up this committee.

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