Paving Vietnam’s way for digitisation

2016 is an important milestone for Vietnam as we see the building blocks of the digital economy being laid down and catch a glimpse of the tremendous opportunities that technology can bring to our nation.

As country manager of Cisco Vietnam, Luong Thi Le Thuy leads a diverse organisation with responsibilites for leading enterprise and government businesses and for development of a compelling country vision and trategic plan to effectively serve both the short-term and long-term business goals of the company in Vietnam.

As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Vietnam can only sustain its growth and maximise its economic potential with digitisation. The government recognizes how critical technology is in our nation’s future. Earlier this year, it pledged to spend $111.6 million in the ICT sector by 2020. Its goal is to incentivize local and international technology firms to invest in the country. In the same vein, the prime minister recently emphasised the role of ICT in increasing national competitiveness on the world stage and he is committed to grasp opportunities from the fourth industrial revolution and develop our country into an advanced, digitised nation. 

It is heartening to see that Vietnam’s direction closely aligns with global macro trends. All indications point to another year of growth and acceleration of the digitisation movement in 2017. Gartner estimates that global IT spending in 2017 will rise and reach $3.5 trillion, up 2.9 per cent from 2016. The increase will be driven by prevailing technology trends, such as automation, intelligent apps and things, as well as security and cloud services.

Amongst these technology trends, the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities are the most pertinent to Vietnam. They will play a pivotal role in helping our nation realise its digital vision, enhance business efficiency, bring about innovation, and improve the quality of life for our people. 

Expected to account for almost 50 per cent of 2020’s IT budget, the IoT holds the largest potential impact on Vietnam’s digital transformation. Many cities are already leveraging IoT technologies to make their cities smarter. Five of the largest cities Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Haiphong, and Binh Duong are already pursuing their own smart city projects. 

Furthermore, Cisco is working with Ho Chi Minh City’s Management Authority for Urban Railways (MAUR) to establish a strategic ICT plan and build an integrated telecommunications control system for the city’s urban railways. This initiative will not only boost the railway’s operational efficiency and management, but also connectivity with other modes of public transport, laying the groundwork for a smart and connected public transport system in the city. 

As digitisation becomes increasingly important in the national agenda, digital technologies will become more mature and pervasive and new, digitally-driven business models will change the nature of competition. Organisations in Vietnam will need to start devising a fighting plan to derive the greatest value from technology.

• Some companies are leveraging technology to enable their digital strategies. They are seeking IT agility and operational effectiveness to move faster and reduce their cost structure.

• Others are going digital to differentiate their strategies, for example by delivering the ultimate customer experience. They employ technology for new products and services and are redefining some of their business processes.

• Organisations who are furthest along their digital journey can harness technology to define their strategies. These companies are reimagining entire industries with new business models and disrupting the incumbents. 

However, companies should not solely concentrate their transformation efforts on IT and business processes and neglect people. The true potential of a smart city and digital economy can only be realised when it is supported by a digital-savvy workforce. ICT firms in Vietnam need to employ around 400,000 people between 2016 and 2020. However, educational institutions nationwide can only provide 250,000 in total. 

Cisco is committed to bridging this gap and helping individuals gain the skills needed to seize the opportunities in the digital era. We have launched many initiatives, including the Cisco Networking Academy (NetAcad) which helps students develop networking fundamentals and concepts with hands-on practice and simulations to develop real-world skills. Since NetAcad’s inception in Vietnam, more than 29,000 people have participated in its curriculum. 

Another critical element in the digital era is cybersecurity and it needs to be at the heart of every company’s digital transformation strategy. Although the value technology can bring is undeniable, companies are also more wary of the risks after witnessing a spate of cybersecurity incidents over the last 12 months. Vietnam is among the top 10 countries that are most exposed to cyber threats.

According to Vietnam Computer Emergency Response Team (VNCERT), Vietnam has experienced 127,000 cyber-attacks in the first half of 2016 alone, while a serious attack in July 2016 crippled two major airports and affected more than 100 flights.

As organisations, infrastructure, and services become increasingly interconnected in smart cities, the number of entryways for cybercriminals to exploit is also swiftly increasing. Organisations need an integrated, threat-centric architectural approach to cybersecurity that allows security solutions to respond to threats swiftly and intelligently at any touchpoint, enabling it to “see it once, stop it everywhere.” Security capabilities also need to be incorporated in all products and services within the organisation’s IT environment, from our networking and data centres to mobile devices, allowing them to have comprehensive protection before, during, and after an attack. 

As more and more business value and assets take on into a digital form, the cost of each security breach is rapidly rising. They often result in tremendous financial losses and inflict a lasting damage to the organisation’s reputation. A weak cybersecurity posture also undermines innovation. Companies that have doubts about their cybersecurity capabilities delay important digital initiatives today and risk falling behind the competition tomorrow.

Organisations in Vietnam need to recognise that cybersecurity is more than just a way to stop threats, it is a strategic advantage that protects and enables innovation and new business value. After all, smart cities are built on the premise that the quality of life can be enriched by converting data insight into concrete action. They are only sustainable if new digital services are secure and end-users trust that their personal data is well-protected. As organisations continue to digitise and innovate in 2017, the biggest opportunity comes when they make cybersecurity the backbone of their digital strategies.

By Luong Thi Le Thuy