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January 21, 2003

Vietnam Fails to Use Internet Says Minister

(Asia Pulse) - Minister of Trade Truong Dinh Tuyen has warned that Vietnam is losing competitiveness in the global Internet marketplace, following a new survey revealing that just 2 per cent of the nation's enterprises use e-commerce.

While an increasing amount of the world's economic activity is being conducted via the World Wide Web, Vietnam's businesses are largely sticking to old-fashioned ways, a survey by the Vietnam Bank for Industry and Commerce has found.

Of the more than 75,000 business enterprises in the country, only about 1,500 have set up a web page. Even among them, most are unfamiliar with using the Internet for electronic transactions. The survey found that while about half of Vietnam's businesses use the Internet for e-mail, only 8 per cent use the web to obtain information.

Elsewhere in the world, e-commerce has grown steadily, with transactions worth about US$300 billion being conducted globally via the Internet in 2002.

Vietnam is far behind the world in e-commerce and its competitiveness in the world market is gradually eroding, warned the minister of trade.

Using the web in Vietnam is largely limited because of technical constraints to creating a portal at present, with most, especially small and medium-sized operations, failing to update their sites regularly.

Nguyen Van Thao, Vice Secretary General of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), said few enterprises use the VCCI's web page, even though access is free of charge. Similarly, not many people know about the web page of HCM City. Recent investigations show that people were more interested in information about the service sector, in areas such as tourism, hospitality and entertainment; trade information on imports and exports; and manufacturing.

Some analysts believe Vietnam's e-commerce systems are not well developed because the country lacks infrastructure, legal framework and, in particular, government support.

Nevertheless, the government has recently approved a plan to invest VND250 billion ($16.3 million) in e-commerce development, with the project to be implemented by the Trade Ministry.

The government also plans to promote Internet use among the general population, with at least 5 per cent of Vietnamese citizens expected to have access by 2005.
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Vietnam 'repressing minorities'

(BBC News) - The human rights group, Human Rights Watch, says Vietnam has intensified repression of ethnic minorities in its Central Highlands region.

A statement by the American-based group says people are being interrogated, arrested, beaten and jailed simply because they are Christians or are suspected of supporting the popular movement for land rights and religious freedom.

The central highland region in Vietnam was the scene of widespread protests nearly two years ago, but Human Rights Watch said government action against members of the Montagnard Christian community was as harsh as ever.

The statement said the government action had forced more than 1,000 Montagnards to flee to neighbouring Cambodia.

The Vietnamese authorities have not yet reacted to the statement.
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