A national agency for IT development

To implement the current national IT program through the year 2000, there is now a national IT Board, chaired by the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, plus a separate Council of scientific and technological advisors, chaired by a prominent mathematician and IT specialist. During the first eight months, the Board and the Council were served by a small secre- tariat inside the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. This secretariat was given a more autonomous status in April 1994 as the country's first national agency for IT development. (1) It will operate across government sectors, as IT agencies do in some other countries in South East Asia. It should serve all ministries and assist better the IT development for educational, industrial and other socio-economic purposes.

We find these three elements of an implementation structure well- organized and sufficient to meet the immediate demands for strategic decisions, informed advice, and prompt execution. Taken together, the Board and Council members represent a wide spectrum of Vietnamese decision- makers and IT expertise. However, as we have already implied, in order to implement each of the main projects outlined in the national IT program, many more institutions and firms have to be mobilized than those currently represented among the Board and Council members.

For the successful implementation of this long-term national IT program, it might be advisable for the government to organize separate task- forces or sector-specific program groups. These groups of experts could monitor the implementation of, for instance, one or several data communica- tions networks at the national level such as the one for banks and credit institutions. It could also monitor the linking of these emerging national networks with international networks. The monitoring of the project and program activities, the formal regulation of available cross-sectoral resources, and the overall coordination of the IT program could be retained by the IT Board and the national IT agency.

Task-forces and program groups are not new to the Vietnamese government, although they might be named differently. In the field of information technology there have been several successful attempts to coordinate different efforts by small, highly-qualified groups of experts drawn from different ministries, agencies and consulting firms. One recent example is the implementation of Vietnam's academic, research, and educa- tional data communications network (VAREnet; cf. Chapter 9). We realize that such task-forces will have to be supported by the central government -- such as the national IT agency -- if they should have any chance to coordinate across the sectors. Their access to information will have to built on trust from the major actors such as the DGPT -- the Directorate-General of Post and Telecommunications -- Vietnam's telecom agency, which has a virtual monopoly of Vietnamese telecom services outside the military sector.

To strengthen the current implementation structure, we recommend that a small group of policy specialists conduct a small investigation into the previous programs for IT development in Vietnam to make an assessment of the failures in their implementation. This should be done only for the pur- pose of avoiding similar administrative problems today. It must be under- lined that the implementation of the 1993 Government Resolution No. 49/CP will be performed under very different technological and economic circum- stances than the previous resolutions on electronics and, more generally, on other information technology. These resolutions (No. 173/CP/1975 and No. 245/CP/1976) were put in place under very different circumstances. A long war had ended, the country had just been reunited, and the economy was still firmly state-controlled. Still, there may be important lessons to be learned and experiences accumulated for those who are now implementing the 1993 IT Resolution.

Foot Notes:
  1. The Agency of the National Program for Information Technology.

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