Digital prospects for southern region

7/16/2021 8:11:00 AM

 While Ho Chi Minh City and a number of southern provinces are facing widespread issues with COVID-19, digital transformation efforts are being taken more seriously. Nguyen Manh Hung, Minister of Information and Communications, looks at the potential for the country in this area.


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The ongoing pandemic is creating a new long-term push for digital transformation. Most countries will take this chance to digitalise activities where possible, and such a transformation over several months during the pandemic may be equal to a normal period of 5-10 years.

Ho Chi Minh City and neighbouring cities and provinces should take this opportunity to accelerate digital transformation to a new level in preparation for a new normal. As a result, 2025-2030 targets in IT application and digital transformation may be achieved much, much sooner if localities understand how to take advantage. Succeeding in this aim will enable us to have post-pandemic breakthrough development in digitalisation. If we cannot take advantage, this means the pandemic will only bring about damage.

For instance, if cities and provinces are able to integrate COVID-19 vaccinations with electronic medical records, the vast majority will have access to such e-records much sooner than the target for the country to fulfil this in 5-10 years.

The Ministry of Information and Communications has already developed the application for COVID-19 vaccination integrated with electronic records, and the important thing now is for cities and provinces to apply it strictly.

We have spent 20 years on development of e-government and a decade on development of e-public services. However, for example, in Ho Chi Minh City, the rate of providing e-public services at Level 4 reaches just 15 per cent and the rate of documents settled online has hit just 22 per cent. Meanwhile, 78 per cent of people still have to complete documents offline. If we suspend providing direct public services during social distancing, all public services will go online at Level 4 within several months, and all people will be able to access e-public services.

In addition, during the pandemic, cities and provinces are able to ask local hospitals to have online diagnosis and treatment services, thus enabling locals to access healthcare at home and easing traffic jams and hospital overloads.

It also helps lower infection risks, and helping hospitals add revenue amid a fall in a number of visitors due to COVID-19. After the pandemic, hospitals will have e-healthcare services and will create a foundation for future digital transformation.

In the education sector, cities and provinces have asked schools to have 10-30 per cent of subjects taught online, and online exams have taken place during the pandemic. By doing this, we put schools in a digital environment never before seen – and in a new landscape, this will become a habit.

Some universities will be developed into digitialised ones, and online education for junior and senior secondary schools and tertiary education will also help ease traffic jams and other factors.

The suspension of supermarkets during social distancing has contributed to the fast-track development of e-commerce, which is an important part of a digital economy. As more and more people gain the habit of online shopping, the target of having digital economy to make up 20-25 per cent of GDP in 2025 is achievable. Without the pandemic, it would take decades to achieve this.

At this time, no tool is more meaningful in supporting locals, household businesses, and small- and medium-sized enterprises than the training of digital skills. The acceleration of this transformation creates development opportunities for digital-led businesses, and outstanding digital businesses have already emerged since the pandemic began because they can carry out many difficult tasks, in an urgent manner.

In the prevention and fight against COVID-19, if cities and provinces strictly apply technology in fast and accurate tracing, we will avoid wide blockades and quarantine of huge numbers of people.

The ministry has developed three necessary technologies for fast tracing – a travel itinerary for the last 14 days, the QRC, and the Bluezone app. This technology saves costs, increase efficiency, and helps keep pandemic prevention smart.

We have taken many actions and initiated programmes in order to prevent and battle the pandemic, as well as to accelerate digital transformation to develop an e-government, a digital economy, and a wider digital society. This pandemic event should be considered as a once-in-a-century opportunity for digital transformation.