A national program to promote information technology

Since the summer of 1993, Vietnam has its own national program for the development of IT. It is an ambitious and comprehensive program, covering a wide range of important issues. It "requires that our country further develop IT in every sector" and not just among the ministries and public agencies. IT should be used to enhance quality and effectiveness in manufacturing and services as a means to support the country's overall economic reforms.

The national IT program is a Government Resolution (No. 49/CP/1993), signed by Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet. Every government agency is ordered to follow the guidelines and reach the objectives. So, at least in principle, every minister will have to find ways to implement the national IT program.

What is new in the 1993 national IT program is its practical orientation. It is a program for better diffusion and application of an existing advanced tech- nology. The IT Resolution is made credible and realistic because it addresses the program's implementation, e.g. the "effectiveness of the application of computers in socio-economic activities". What is left out of the national IT program are operational goals with clear strategies for their implementation. The implementation of the national IT program will require a higher degree of joint effort and cross-sectoral coordination, especially in combining policies for technology and innovation with policies for industrial development and restructuring, trade, infrastructure improvement, administrative reform, education, and other manpower development. It is our belief that policies for the development of IT cannot be effectively imple- mented in isolation from other economic and social policies. In countries with well-developed IT infrastructures, computer and telecommunication techno-logies are applied to nearly every aspect of social and economic activity. In Part Two of this report, especially in Chapters 5 and 6 , the implementation problems of the national IT program will be elaborated.

The IT program does not incorporate possible positive linkages between the progressive IT policy of Vietnam on the one hand and the current policies for industry; foreign trade; education and training; administrative reforms and the communications infrastructure on the other. The national IT program identifies some of these cross-sectoral linkages, but limits itself when it comes to the creation and development of an IT industry in Vietnam.

The IT program was never meant to be just a government program. In mid-1993, the central government promulgated the IT program as a cross- sectoral program to be located in the new economic context of Vietnam. Institutions and enterprises in all sectors, and in the whole country, were encouraged to participate in the program's implementation. In each of the six areas of IT applications included in the Resolution, the involvement of a set of different institutions and enterprises inside and outside of government was to be sought. We recommend that this approach be observed during the process of the program's implementation.

In sum, we think that the separate policies influencing IT developments will have to be better orchestrated. What is required now -- to give an example in organizational terms -- is coordination and joint policy develop- ment by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, which pioneered the policy development behind the national IT program, and, e.g., the Ministry of Heavy Industry, which until recently could command or at least influence virtually all public enterprises assembling electronic products and developing information technology.

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