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  ICT applications

VN looks to bridge digital divide

There should be a change in the society’s attitude toward a new effective model for IT training and education activities

Viet Nam needs to reform its Information Technology (IT) education and training programmes and provide internet access for rural populations in order to bridge Viet Nam’s digital disadvantage with more developed nations, industry experts said.

Deputy Minister of Post and Telematics, Mai Liem Truc, said there should be a change in the society’s attitude toward a new effective model for IT training and education activities.

"I think it is important to train users of ICT (information and communication technology) services. In fact, some centres have opened to train IT experts to meet Microsoft, Cisco and Aptech standards," Truc said.

"However, in coming years, we need to find a training model with no discrimination between formal and informal training systems."

Dang Van Hung, deputy chairman of the Hai Phong Radio-Electronics and Informatics Association, said the country’s IT educational system faces an imbalance between the IT industry’s three major components – experts, workers and consumers.

While a successful structure has a pyramid-shape with consumers as the base and IT experts on top, Hung said, the situation in Viet Nam is quite the opposite. Too many IT workers and experts serve fewer customers.

Although the country is now capable of producing up to 10,000 potential specialists, IT masters and engineers each year, he said the training quality of graduates cannot be standardised because different IT institutions are now using different IT educational curricula.

Even IT graduates from foreign-invested training schools run by larger companies like Aptech, NIIT, Microsoft and Cisco are being criticised by their employers for lacking adequate skills and experiences.

"IT graduates from these institutions have been like raw materials that need further processing," agreed Truong Gia Binh, general director of the Financing and Promoting Technology Corporation (FPT).

Most Vietnamese IT workers earn their IT degrees after their first university graduation. Hung said Viet Nam currently has not reviewed this system of second-degree universities, most of which are in-service courses.

In-service courses must be tailored to meet the specific needs of different categories of graduates so that the training system is more effective, he added.

While the country’s more than 3,000 universities, colleges and high schools have access to the internet, Luong Cao Son, secretary of the e-government scheme 112, said the project’s implementation remains unsuccessful in Government offices because the bulk of employees do not know how to operate the system.

Viet Nam should conduct an IT literacy campaign similar to those of reading literacy campaigns many years ago, he said.

The World Bank has recently estimated only one per cent of Vietnamese families have adequate access to computers. Experts and businesses say the rate is too tiny for the deployment of IT applications.

Global non-government organisations, including the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank, have been working closely with the Government to enhance computer literacy and internet use in rural areas to bridge the digital divide between cities and the countryside.

Apart from the Government and NGOs’ efforts, some provinces have already embarked on their own programmes to bring internet to the communities.

The southern province of An Giang is an example of such a programme, which involves local government, researchers, businesses and many local farmers.

The province has allocated a budget of VND500 million (US$31,850) for the internet scheme, which has spent VND270 million on computers. As part of the programme, farmers are taught how to surf the Net and find information.

However, the programme is only the beginning.

Professor Vo Tong Xuan, director of An Giang University and chief of the Internet Universalisation Programme in An Giang, said familiarising farmers with the world-wide-web will take a great deal of time.

Xuan said his university has been building a new website called e-LangViet following an initiative begun by Viet Nam’s former ambassador to the European Union, Tran Van Thinh.

The website, designed in the form of an online helper, aims to help farmers more effectively find information on their crops and markets on the world wide web.

An Giang Province is the country’s largest food crop producer, having generated over 3 million tonnes of food last year. Many farming households in the province have equipped themselves with networked computers in the hopes of enhancing their businesses.

Professor Xuan is hoping that more farmers will be interested in buying computers over time.

VNS - (04/03/2005)

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