Bridge – Some 35% of e-government projects around the world completely fail and 50% don’t meet goals, said Dr. James S.L Yong of Cisco. Vietnam has mildly experienced the ups and downs of applying a technological infrastructure; what lies ahead?
According to a survey conducted by Brown University, Vietnam’s e-government ranking went from 126th in 2006 to 90th in 2007.
“That might seem like a good sign, but if we look back at the past ten years, it’s a bitter failure,” said Director of the HCM City Department of Post and Telecommunications, Le Manh Ha.
The e-Government development program debuted in 1998 starting with a project to develop six national databases, named IT2000. Project 112, the integration of these six databases, was scheduled to be the next step of IT2000. However, IT2000 only accomplished several research projects which were followed by the complete failure of Project 112.
“The establishment of six national databases totally failed,” confirmed Dr. Dao Dinh Kha, Director of the IT Application Agency under the Ministry of Information and Communications and the head of a new national database research group.
Kha blamed unpractical planning, insufficient funding and outdated technological vision as main causes for the failure.
According to HCM City Department of Post and Telecommunications’ Director Le Manh Ha, between 1998 and 2001, IT was spontaneously applied in Government agencies, without uniform planning or inter-agency information and technological integration.
“After that, the G2E (Government to Enterprise) model was developed and became the foundation for HCM City’s e-Government planning,” Ha said.
He said 2001-2004 was a fruitful and complicated period for e-Government development. Project 112 was born during this time and its ambitions stirred up a great deal of controversy. One goal was to offer all public services via the Internet and the success of regional e-Government.
“Project 112 exposed many problems but was also the inspiration for current plans and ambitions. HCM City decided to develop its own style of e-Government in late 2004,” Ha said.
Hoang Quoc Lap, Head of the IT Application Agency under the Ministry of Information and Communications, said if Vietnamese people and enterprises haven’t been educated in and adapted to regular internet use, Vietnam can’t successfully build and utilize e-Government.
According IT experts, economic disparity also results in a inhomogeneous e-government development process. Many provinces and cities design departmental websites, but most only offer limited basic information, few offer real online services.
One of the reasons behind Vietnam’s improve ranking according to Brown University is the number of Government websites, which in actuality lack actual applications and user tools.
Dr. James S.L. Yong from Cisco says administrative reforms come before IT application, but that Vietnam is working in reverse.
Hoang Quoc Lap from the IT Application Agency under the Ministry of Information and Communications said Vietnam’s new plan is to apply e-Government in some cities on a trial basis and if successful, to apply it in the remaining provinces.
Kha, who leads the national database research group, said the new national database development project will focus on building four primary databases – on citizens, investment, finance and business, land and law.
Asked about what has changed between this plan and 1998’s idea to build six databases? Kha says there are two distinct differences: (1) developing national databases is specifically mentioned in the IT Law and (2) the Government has assigned the Ministry of Information and Communications to be responsible for this task.
However, “e-Government can, and probably will, fail without marketing because people are either unaware that it exists or don’t know how to use it,” said Lim Hooi Ling, Head of Singapore’s eGovernment Leadership.
Cisco’s Yong also said e-Government marketing is as important as developing and implementing the technology.
For example, the HCM City Department of Planning and Investment allowed enterprises to conduct online business registration as of early this year, but by the end of September, two thirds of new enterprises had registered offline because they didn’t know about the online service.
“The sooner Vietnam develops successful e-Government, the sooner it can move ahead to the next step at every level, from private citizens to major enterprises to global politics,” said Minister of Information and Communications Le Doan Hop.