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Vietnam reveals AI strategy as new leaders enter office

Hanoi seeks entrepreneurs and foreign investors to build tech powerhouse

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, center, being shown round a Vinfast auto plant in 2019 by Vingroup Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong, right.     © Reuters

HANOI -- Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has unveiled Vietnam's artificial intelligence masterplan just ahead of the National Assembly convening this week when the new leadership elected at the Communist Party of Vietnam's Congress in January debuts.

Phuc, who is expected to be appointed president, signed the groundbreaking 'National Strategy on R&D and Application of Artificial Intelligence,' which details how Vietnam plans to roll out AI up until 2030.

Hanoi hopes the communist country will by then have achieved upper middle-income status. "AI should be concerned with socio-economic development challenges and goals," the document said.

Vietnam's Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, strategy is to develop AI products and services the country already has with a more competitive global edge.

To promote automation, Industry 4.0 utilizes among other components ultra high-speed connectivity, artificial intelligence, machine learning and real-time data.

Phuc was tasked with building a framework for Industry 4.0 and AI by Politburo in 2019. He signed the national plan relating to how AI will evolve in Vietnam over the next nine years on Dec. 31, 2020.

The AI strategy is in line with the economic milestones in 2030 worked out by the Communist Party Congress in January, according to Duong Quoc Chinh, a Hanoi-based political analyst, in an interview with Nikkei Asia.

Vietnam has its sights set on becoming a developing, upper-middle-income country with modern industry by 2030, when it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Upper-middle-income economies have gross national income per capita of $4,046 to $12,535. Vietnam's GNI per capita stood at $2,590 in 2019, according to the World Bank. Southeast Asian economies with upper-middle-income status include Indonesia at $4,050, Thailand at $7,260 and Malaysia at $11,230.

Hanoi wants AI to raise public sector productivity, particularly online public services to reduce processing and waiting times, public servant numbers, and other costs. Using AI to beef up national security is also high on the agenda.

If realized, Vietnam's 2030 targets will take it into ASEAN's top four and the world's top 50 countries in terms of AI research, development and application.

The government wants Vietnam to establish 10 reputable AI brands or services by 2030.

Hanoi also plans to build three national big data storage centers to give businesses access to high-performance computing. Attracting domestic entrepreneurs and foreign investors will be key to delivering on all this, the paper said.

"If Vietnam wants to choose to develop a fast-growth economy, they cannot avoid Industry 4.0 and its fast innovation and development of technologies," Chinh pointed out.

Phuc ramped up efforts in Industry 4.0 and AI but Vietnam is still lagging behind many countries, Chinh said. The AI road map will be welcomed by both nationals and enterprise communities, he said.

"AI is one of the most important core technologies of the digital transformation of IT companies as well as other businesses," said Tu Vu Anh, chief technology officer FPT Corporation. "Government support initiatives will speed the transformation of all organizations, institutions and companies in Vietnam in the 4.0 industry revolution."

The 14th National Assembly has its 11th and final sitting from Mar. 24 to Apr. 8. Its main purpose is to elect the new state president, vice president, prime minister, deputy prime ministers, chair and deputy chairs of the National Assembly, as well as cabinet members, the chief justice of the Supreme People's Court of Vietnam, and the prosecutor general of the Supreme People's Procuracy.

In its final three weeks, the National Assembly will approve a summary of its term, which began in 2016, as well as the records of the president, the executive and key organs of government. A law on drug abuse and control will also be passed.

Additional reporting by Kim Dung in Ho Chi Minh City.

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