The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry has become one of the most crucial factors of development for the 4th Industrial Revolution. In this series of articles, we will explore development trends in the ICT industry in Vietnam. We are seeing a big push by government and businesses to grow Vietnam’s own expertise and we want to take a close look at where we are heading.
Overview of the ICT Industry
The ICT industry accounts for the largest share (23%) of expenditure on research and development and over one third of total patent applications worldwide. Key components of digital technologies identified are IoTs, Big Data Analytics, AI, Blockchain, Cloud Computing and many other technologies. According to statistics, the leading countries in numbers of ICT patents up to 2019 are China, United States, Japan, South Korea and Germany.
In Vietnam, the industry has grown at an average pace of 31.1% from 2014-2019 to reach a revenue of US$110 billion in 2019. In addition, it contributed VND 53 trillion (US$2.1 billion) to the state budget, more than 14% of its GDP, and created more than one million jobs. 2020 marked the first year that Vietnam officially announced its focus on developing digital technology businesses, the “Make in Vietnam” strategy. The number of digital technology businesses has since increased by 28%, reaching nearly 60,000 companies.
On 24 December 2020, the Prime Minister signed Decision No. 2205/QD-TTg approving the Intellectual Property Development Program led by the Ministry of Science and Technology. In the draft documents of the 13th National Party Congress, the socio-economic development strategy of 2021-2030 also highlighted the development of high-tech fields in telecommunications and digital technology: “Some key telecommunications and information technology enterprises have well-performed the leading role in digital infrastructure, the foundation for the digital economy and digital society in association with ensuring information safety and security. Focusing on manufacturing equipment for 5G system.” Objectives include increasing the number of patent applications and granted patents by an average of 16-18% per year and aiming for 8-10% of patents that will be commercially exploited. The strategy encourages enterprises to be more proactive and active in utilizing IP information, especially patent information.
However, there are certain shortcomings that still need to be addressed in the industry, such as the over reliance on foreign invested enterprises. This is why the Ministry of Information and Communications has developed an “ICT industry development program” which focuses on measures to encourage Vietnamese firms to further engage in the global ICT industry’s value chain and increase added value.
Current Development of Vietnam ICT Corporations and Companies
Foreign ICT investors
In Vietnam, foreign enterprises in the ICT sector contribute 98% of the total export revenue. According to Reuters, Foxconn has been transferring assembly lines for Macbook and iPad from China to Vietnam due to a request from Apple. The factory is expected to be located in Bac Giang and is expected to run in the first half of 2021. Since the beginning of the year, a series of Taiwanese companies have started moving some production activities out of China to other countries such as India, Vietnam and Mexico. Recently, Foxconn has also invested US$270 million to set up a new subsidiary in Vietnam, FuKang Technology, possibly to aid production relocation.
Meanwhile, Taiwan-based Pegatron, a manufacturing partner of the world’s major tech firms such as Microsoft, Apple and Sony, has planned to invest US$1 billion to build a manufacturing complex at Nam Dinh Vu industrial park in Hai Phong. These projects are expected to create manufactured products that are supplied to Microsoft, Sony, Lenovo and Apple.
Samsung Vietnam has also announced the construction of a new US$220 million research and development (R&D) centre in Vietnam. This is the first R&D centre built by Samsung Electronics outside the Republic of Korea and is among the largest foreign invested R&D centres in Vietnam. Once it is completed in 2022, its research workforce in Vietnam will increase from 2,200 to 3,000, with its capacity enhanced in not only product development but also in new technologies such as AI, IoTs and Big Data. It should be noted the Korean conglomerate already employs over 180,000 people in Vietnam.
Domestic ICT companies – Phones, 5G and Cars!
Vietnam has numerous companies currently operating in the ICT sector. However, the number of large corporations investing resources in research and development in the ICT field is still very low. These include technology corporations that have developed technology for many years such as Viettel Group, FPT, VNPT Technology and CMC. On the other hand, VinGroup, an entity new to the technology market, has quickly invested significant resources in automobile technology (Vinfast) and mobile phones (Vinsmart) and is quickly gaining international recognition.
Viettel Group invested in developing base stations for 4G mobile networks several years ago. In 2019, three major corporations in Vietnam, Viettel Group, Vingroup and FPT, announced their plans to develop 5G and IoT devices. After nearly a year of research and development, Viettel Group and VinGroup signed a cooperation agreement to commercialise the 5G gNodeB 8T8R mobile base station on 30 June 2021 and the 5G gNodeB 64T64R mobile base station on 30 June 2022.
To accelerate the development of high-tech human resources, the Government is funding scientific research. Besides, Vietnam businesses are building cooperation with universities and research institutes. For example, VinGroup sponsors R&D activities through the VinIF Fund for the development of AI and data science.
There has been a rapid increase in investment by the Vietnam government and large corporations on core technology areas such as AI, big data, new generation mobile networks and self-driving automobiles. We can expect therefore a rapid growth in this area as investments by government and businesses in the highly tech literate young workforce pay off.
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