Minister wants Vietnamese replacements for Facebook, Google

Information minister Nguyen Manh Hung has called for creating a Vietnamese social media network and search engine to replace Facebook and Google.

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A smartphone user shows the Facebook application on his phone. Photo by Reuters/Dado Ruvic.
"The time has come for us to build a new social network and a new, more humane search engine, which focuses more on users and brings them more value," Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said at an IT industry conference on Monday.

The world needs a new approach to social networking in which users reap the benefits the social network creates. They must be involved in the platform’s rule-making and protected on it, he added.

Social networks are societies and so should respect basic moral values and comply with the laws, Hung said.

"Why not create a new social network to replace Facebook since Facebook's philosophy is no longer suitable for the world? We need a social network where the value created by the community is shared, not funneled toward one person."

He also suggested building a search engine where more reliable answers are highlighted to help non-expert searchers sift through the large number of answers generated after a query. 

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Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung at an IT industry conference on Monday. Photo by VnExpress/Vien Thong.

Vietnam must develop shared platforms if it wants to accelerate digitization, he said. For instance, a common platform for media agencies would help them access readers and digitize quickly, a common bookkeeping program could be developed so that small businesses could do their accounting without having to hire specialized personnel.

"Each unit does its part to create an essential foundation for universal digital transformation. We cannot knock on doors of individual businesses and ask them to convert one by one."

Vietnam’s culture of adapting, learning, creating, and applying new things quickly is an advantage in the digital transformation process, Hung said.

The Ministry of Information and Communications would support businesses by issuing a policy for sandboxes so that businesses could securely test new technological models in a controlled and secure environment, he promised.

Dr Nguyen Anh Thi, director of Ho Chi Minh City’s Information Technology Park under the Vietnam National University, concurred with the ministry’s proposal for policies to foster sandboxes.

The ministry should have a program to promote technology start-ups to develop Vietnam into a regional and global center of technological talent, Thi suggested.

According to Data 61, an Australian data science research and engineering firm, Vietnam could add $162 billion to its GDP in 20 years’ time by making its economy digital. Its current GDP is $223.9 billion.

The government wants 50 percent of all businesses operating digitally by 2025 and the digital economy to account for 20 percent of GDP. It also seeks to have 80 percent of its interaction with the public and businesses done digitally by that year.