Comrade Truong Minh Tuan, PhD, Member of the Party Central Committee, Minister of Information and Communications. Image: dangcongsan.vn
Along with the rapid and
continuous development of information and communication technology, the
world has been transiting to information society. This process has
caused increasingly new challenges to people, businesses and regulatory
bodies. It is an important and urgent demand to develop and implement an
effective programme of action to build and develop a safe and healthy
information society in Vietnam at present, contributing to the cause of
industrialization, modernization and international integration.
The arrival and coverage of the Internet since the 1990s of the 20th century has created a real information revolution. Over the past 20 years, the number of Internet users in the world went up 90 times from 35 million to more than 3 billion. At the same time, the number of mobile phone users increased by 60 times from 80 million to approximately 5 billion. According to statistics, at present, every two days, an information volume equal to that from the appearance of human civilization to 2003 is produced.
It is possible to say that the Internet is the common development trend of the scientific and technological time. Thanks to the Internet people have opportunities to access to global colossal data which has been updated hourly and daily from all corners of the world. Information on the Internet is rich, diversified, facilitate contacts and information exchange among people, and promote knowledge economy, democracy, transparency in society. The Internet has brought about many benefits to social life, offering various services such as education, online learning opportunities, search for jobs and business, creating competitiveness among businesses, contributing to administration reform, bringing about certain effectiveness to state management though building and developing e-government, e-commerce, e-transaction, electronic newspapers and reviews, social network and other platforms on the Internet.
By 2025, most of the world population estimated to reach 8 billion by that time will be able to access to the Internet by palm-sized devices. The acceleration of information society development has become the common trend of countries in the world to boost socio-economic development, and sustainable prosperity.
The Internet by nature has created a cyber society similar to real life in which people interact, contact, and share information daily. Like real life, the cyber society has also drawbacks. Countries which have been familiar with state governance in real life have been confused with new, “non-traditional” challenges of cyber social governance. Some “non-traditional” prominent differences of cyber society include:
First, cyber society is global without borders as in real life. All real life activities are regulated and managed by law. National laws are effective only within the border of a country.
Second, unlike in real life, due to the open nature of the Internet netizens (users) can easily hide their real names.
Third, the cyber society is highly interactive, and timely; information is continuously and constantly produced, shared, disseminated, transmitted instantly on the global scale and much quicker than other traditional communication forms of real life.
To address these “non-traditional” challenges, many countries in the world have studied and implemented two versions of policy with two different thinking of governance, one for the real life and the other for the cyber information society.
However, cyber governance is not a simple issue and there is no precedence. In the history of social development, thousands of years are needed to complete governance institution while the cyber information society has just operated for recent decades.
The Internet in Vietnam
The Vietnamese Party and State have set great store by boosting application and development of information technology in socio-economic management and development. Along with the promotion of information technology, the Internet, e-government, e-commerce, social networks and other traditional communication platforms on the Internet have strongly developed, contributing to enhance quality and effectiveness of information, communication, people’s knowledge and meeting people’s increasing demands for information and cultural enjoyment.
However, after a period of development, the Internet drawbacks have made obvious impacts on several aspects of social life in Vietnam including negative effects such as fraud webs, fabricated information, images and texts which do not conform to Vietnamese customs and habits, virus, and harmful software. Not only people but organizations, agencies, and businesses providing online services on the Internet have also affected in terms of economy, credibility and reliability.
Seriously still, national digital interests and sovereignty have also been threatened. Hostile and reactionary forces have taken advantage of the Internet to besmear individuals, incite public opinion, conduct espionage and intelligence in an attempt to sabotage national defense and security. Many countries in the world have considered cyber space as the fifth development space beside land, ocean, sky and air spaces.
In the context of Vietnam at present, it is possible to see that if in real life the role of the State and State management encourage positive elements, give warnings, handle violations and breaches and maintain social order, traditional measures of state management are no longer suitable for cyber governance.
The key reason is the social network infrastructure has been managed and operated by foreign multinational corporations with equipment and hardware scattering all over the world. Traditional management measures of Vietnamese regulatory body such as license, inspection, control and removal of contents are inapplicable in most of the cases. Technical intervention such as blocking, screening of access requires costly investment and is not effective while causing negative social response and affecting international integration. In addition, the Internet as a transborder tool has rendered traditional measures ineffective.
In such a circumstance, one of the primary priorities is to seek for a relevant solution for information society governance, in line with international practices and Vietnamese context, turning challenges into opportunities for “a safe and healthy information society.”
Experience and historical lessons show that when it comes to resolve a big problem, the Vietnamese have arrived at solutions that are flexible and suitable to internal conditions. In a short period of 3-5 years, it is not feasible to construct a Vietnamese social network to replace foreign one. The guiding principle in the short-term and medium-term strategies is to bring into play creativeness from regulatory body and businesses.
The regulatory body should study and look for creative solutions, mechanisms and policy for users and businesses, including transborder service providers in line with Vietnamese law. These mechanisms, policy and regulations must create an equal competitive “playground” for businesses, not causing difficulties to domestic businesses. Businesses must uphold creativeness and start up, taking specific advantages of Vietnam to boost digital information resource development.
Concrete Programme of Action
A concrete Programme of Action to implement a safe and healthy information society must consist of clear direction and objectives, combine harmoniously the long-term strategy with immediate urgent solutions including renovation of point of view and settlement of problems in conformity with the current situation.
Development point of view
The cross-cutting guiding viewpoint of the Progamme of Action is developing a safe and healthy information society of Vietnam, contributing to safeguard national sovereignty, promote international cooperation and integration in information and communication technology, heighten people’s knowledge, orient culture and lifestyle and push up economic development. Within Vietnam’s territory the social network in particular and the Internet in general must subject to Vietnam’s sovereignty jurisdiction. Vietnam’s legislation should be respected and strictly abided by. Vietnam’s regulatory body must also accordingly build capacity of law enforcement.
Building on the guiding orientation, concrete objectives are limiting negative impacts of the Internet, protecting Internet users in Vietnam from threat and risks of unsafe information on the web, improving Internet law enforcement, Internet governance and administration by law, building a reliable web environment as a foundation for further information technology application and online transaction.
Long-term tasks and solutions
The Programme of Action sets out three groups of medium- and long-term tasks and solutions as follows:
First, continue to complete the legal corridor, facilitate related organizations and individuals’ activities as a basis for competent authorities to exercise web governance and administration in line with international practices and Vietnam’s context.
Second, strengthen synchronous implementation of guiding documents of the Party, programmes, projects, plans on information technology application and development and information security approved by the Government and Prime Minister.
Third, mobilize resources and participation of the whole society, especially businesses, communication organizations and media in building Vietnam’s safe and healthy information society.
Urgent tasks and solutions
Beside groups of long-term tasks and solutions, the Programme of Action advances four groups of urgent tasks and solutions as follows:
First, improve capacity in management, establishment and operation of a system to collect, synthesize information and timely discover sources of dissemination of illegal information on the web to assist competent authorities in monitoring and handling. Set up mechanism to timely and effectively share information between competent authorities and telecommunication and internet service providers and communities in coordination and handling cases of dissemination of illegal information on the web. Establish and put into operation a system to assist Internet users.
Second, develop digital information resources. Set up community columns in some big social network with attractive content to concrete target audience to attract users’ participation. Provide official information on the web, especially social network in association with close administration and execution of content on official websites according to law. Develop Vietnam’s social network for more users’ participation. Make available other products and services, taking advantage of the Internet connectivity in Vietnam.
Third, support and establish community. Put in place a simple and convenient liaison mechanism ready for users to report on sources which disseminate illegal information, harmful to individuals and organizations to competent authorities. Build and popularize regulations and code of conduct for Internet users in Vietnam, form behavioural culture, share healthy information, condemn and boycott activities that run counter to community and national interests on the web. Expedite communication, guidance and popularization of skills to safely and affectively use the Internet.
Fourth, coorperate with international law-enforcement bodies in preventing risks to information security from Vietnam and to Vietnam. Cooperate with transborder information service providers, especially businesses-owners of social networks much used in Vietnam to set up focal points for coordination in handling cases of disseminating illegal information, share information, provide guidance on policy, orient investment activities, and improve transborder information service in Vietnam. Coordinate with international organizations and businesses in providing skills for safe use of transborder products and services.
To realize the above-mentioned groups of tasks and solutions, it is imperative to maximize social resources, participation of businesses and society, administration and operation capacity of businesses to ensure thrift and effectiveness.
The computer network and the Internet are among human achievements of great influence, ushering in a new stage with outstanding progress in the world. In the era of digital technology, Vietnam is facing opportunities and challenges. Under the leadership the Party and management of the State, Vietnam has had certain favourable conditions by laying initial foundation for development. Thus, Vietnam must accelerate application and development to take maximum advantage of technology while maintaining political, cultural, economic and social stability of the country. The development and implementation of the Programme of Action on a safe and healthy information society to concretize the Party lines, State policy and law with constructive spirit will help expand development space, uphold resources, promote creativeness for national sustainable development.