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VN’s major IT players keen to get ahead of the pack in Industry 4.0

17/05/2017 09:52 SA Xem cỡ chữ
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Google “Industry 4.0” and it takes just 0.43 seconds to bring up 700,000 results. This fourth industrial revolution will hopefully resemble a wave pushing change in Vietnam’s business community.


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FPT, Viettel, and the Vietnam National Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) count among the pioneers in Vietnam. 
The military-run mobile carrier Viettel officially launched its 4G network on April 18, announcing that it covers 95 per cent of Vietnam’s population with an average download speed of 30-50 Mbps. 
A few days ago, FPT Software also announced it would launch an unmanned automobile in October. 
Preparing for the wave
Chairman of the FPT Group, Mr. Truong Gia Binh, told VET after the “Industrial Revolution 4.0 - Gain & Lose” forum held by VET on April 7 that Vietnam can keep pace with the revolution. 
“That is the inevitable trend of our times,” he said. “In order to be part of the revolution, FPT has readied for its pioneering mission by applying digital technology in all of its operations and management and many of its activities.” 
FPT has adopted seven solutions to keep pace with Industry 4.0, he explained, the most important of which is building smart cities. 
The group is also focusing on building a digital government model. 
In the past, due to limitations in information technology (IT), interaction between the government and the people on a one-way street, but nowadays, digital technology platforms help the government become more multi-dimensional, hearing opinions from the people through interaction on social networks. 
“In order to have a smart city, we must first build a digital government,” Mr. Binh believes. 
The group also has a bold plan to sell its retail segment in order to focus on its technology segment. 
FPT expects that, after the sale, it will no longer hold a controlling share in FPT Trading and FPT Retail. The sale was originally planned for last year but was delayed due to planning issues. 
Many investors have expressed an interest and the plan is now proceeding nicely and should be completed this year, Mr. Binh said. 
It also plans to launch unmanned automobiles in October. According to Mr. Hoang Nam Tien, Chairman of FPT Software, while the world talks about the Internet of Things (IoT), engineers at the company want to talk more specifically about the Internet of Vehicles (IoV). 
To this end, FPT Global Automotive (FGA), a unit specializing in the research and development of technology solutions for automobiles, was created in 2016. 
It now has 1,500 employees in hardware, software, and design, with the headcount to increase to 2,000 this year. 
In the spirit of blazing the trail in Industry 4.0, Mr. Binh targets $1 billion in software exports by 2020. 
The target surprised many when it was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 
He also revealed that this year, FPT will focus on infrastructure investment in the field of telecommunication services, office investment for the technology block, and investment in new educational institutions, with total capital of VND2.3 trillion ($101.2 million). 
Viettel, meanwhile, has developed a range of plans to stay abreast of the fourth industrial revolution. 
CEO Nguyen Manh Hung said that, historically, industrial revolutions turned four or five countries into economic powerhouses.
Finding the right way into the revolution means that Vietnam has chosen a challenge but also potential prosperity in developing together with advanced countries around the world. 
If Vietnam doesn’t work towards keeping pace with the revolution, it will find it difficult to come from behind. 
Its recent 4G launch expresses Viettel’s determination to become leader in the revolution. 
According to Deputy General Director Hoang Son, it is the first network operator in the world to have 4G coverage nationwide. 
“UK’s Vodafone, the world’s second-largest provider, has offered 4G since 2013 but only covers 88 per cent of the UK’s population,” he said. “Meanwhile, Viettel’s 4G will cover 95 per cent of the population within six months, with 36,000 stations.” 
To prepare for extensive 4G network coverage, Viettel previously provided free 4G SIM cards to users. “We invested in equipment and began installing infrastructure to widen the 4G coverage area as soon as we received a license,” Mr. Son said. 
“Viettel expects a mobile internet boom in Vietnam and for 4G to become hugely popular.”  
The military group also surprised many when it announced it would produce anti-eavesdropping phones, called the “Viettel Luxury Phone”, to be introduced later in the year. 
There are about 100 versions of the phone available for special customers with high security needs. 
In the time to come, however, it will also launch a commercial version for the general population, at a price of about $1,000.
At Viettel Global’s tenth anniversary celebrations at the end of last year, Mr. Hung revealed it will move from being a telecom service provider to being a technology enterprise, joining the global Top 20 in the process by 2030. 
“The group will not only provide telecom services and information communications and technology,” he explained. “It will also participate in researching and producing high technology equipment.” 
Also with ambitions to be a pioneer, VNPT is to prepare resources for Industry 4.0. VNPT Technology, under the VNPT Group, partnered with Qualcomm, a world leader in 3G and next-generation mobile technologies, in February to develop advanced electronics products for export to China and elsewhere. 
Chairman Tran Manh Hung said that VNPT will play an active and important role in preparing the infrastructure and resources needed for the fourth industrial revolution.
VNPT Technology will be licensed by Qualcomm to use its patents on WCDMA and 4G technology to design, develop, manufacture, and supply products for mobile wireless networks around the world, including mobile terminal products, large station radio access devices, and smart cell devices.
The group is also promoting IT solutions such as VNPT-ioffice, VNPT-iGate, VNPT Portal, and a school management system (VnEdu). These solutions have already been widely used in many cities and provinces. 
VNPT is also the leader in deploying Smart City, having been selected as a partner in the smart city model in Ho Chi Minh City, Kien Giang, Lam Dong, Tien Giang, and Binh Duong provinces, and Phu Quoc Island. 
Issues to address
The confidence in the success of development plans from FPT, VNPT and Viettel to take part in Industry 4.0 is largely warranted. 
The proportion of the population and businesses in Vietnam using the internet is quite high, at about 54 per cent of the population in 2016, ranking the country fifth in the Asia-Pacific region, while the percentage of the population using smartphones is about 55 per cent and its IT industry is growing rapidly, at up to 16 per cent annually. 
Moreover, the country is ranked in the Top 5 countries with the fastest-growing IT in the world. “Vietnam already has major firms in technology, which are beginning to spread their wings,” Mr. Vu Hoang Lien, Chairman of the Vietnam Internet Association, was quoted as saying. 
“If we can grasp the opportunity we may witness big leaps forward and catch up with the world.”
Being a player in Industry 4.0, however, will be anything but easy. “In the short term, Vietnam cannot catch up with the revolution, and whether it can do so in the mid-term is up for debate,” said Mr. Dang Viet Dung, General Manager of Uber Vietnam. 
“Policy is an important factor in success.” The State, he added, needs to offer a “helping hand” through support policies for enterprises to develop. 
Mr. Dung’s views are shared by Mr. Lien. The third industrial revolution passed Vietnam by and the challenges from the fourth may be even greater. 
If the fourth is left to develop naturally, the gap between Vietnam and other countries will never be bridged. 
Therefore, according to Mr. Lien, to catch up and keep pace with Industry 4.0 requires major change. The agent of change is not the population, however, but the invisible hand of the government. 
“We can catch up in consumption, but catching up in creativity and production requires the government,” he said.
Education reform and science and technology are also challenges. If Vietnam does not have clear objectives, a suitable approach, economic restructuring, education reform, and science and technology development, the pressure from the fourth industrial revolution will be extreme. 
The two greatest challenges, according to Mr. Binh, is the country having to keep pace with global integration while also having to compete with other countries to develop. 
“The destination of the fourth industrial revolution is still far away,” he said. “But to even see the destination, Vietnam needs to act right now.”


VN Economic Times

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