Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City is becoming a globalized smart city

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With new trade and investment opportunities arising during the pandemic-dampened past few months, Vietnam and its business capital Ho Chi Minh has stood out as an attractive destination, even within the fast-growing Southeast Asian region.

Not only has Vietnam largely withstood the COVID-19 infection rates that have ravaged other parts of Asia, but the country’s economy has proven to be remarkably resilient during the most challenging period since the Vietnam War ended in the late 1970s.

The country’s digital businesses are also experiencing exponential development, with some experts even saying that Vietnam is the fastest-growing digital economy in the entire Asia Pacific (APAC). Even its traditional economic driver, the agriculture sector is receiving major boosts from IoT-driven agriculture technology (agritech).

Vietnam also has a forward-thinking, digitally-invested government that has been pushing a national e-commerce transformation plan, that is expected to grow online businesses by up to 43% within the next five years.

That same government has been overseeing a plan to turn Vietnam’s business and technology hub, Ho Chi Minh City, into the country’s first, truly city. A government release from the Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications confirmed the city has laid some of the foundational elements in its bid to modernize Ho Chi Minh City.

The release pointed out some of the key smart city elements include the development of a shared database along with an open data ecosystem; a smart city operations and control center; a center for socioeconomic forecasts and simulation; as well as a center for information safety.

The emphasis on data gathering and analysis to fine-tune the running of an urban district is one of the defining characteristics of a smart city. The former-Saigon is on that path, with the release claiming that a shared administrative database is already operational [in Vietnamese] at Quang Trung Software City in District 12 of Ho Chi Minh City. The database integrates information from multiple public departments including foreign investment, education, and healthcare.

This centralized data collection will benefit Ho Chi Minh City residents as more solutions to urban issues are optimized for the city, based on data-driven insights. Potential solutions that could benefit Vietnam’s business capital could be in traffic management, environmental monitoring and control, and urban transportation systems to name a few.

Such focus will have the benefit of attracting more foreign investments and collaboration opportunities, as the city of nearly 9 million scales up and modernizes its infrastructure. For example, multinational data firm Joon Solutions usually boasts offices in Europe and North America but has now widened its data solutions offerings to Vietnam as well.

“Everyone in Saigon is more or less confronted with the paper trail that goes everywhere, in some folder somewhere [which] means a loss of time,” said Marco Sollie, the COO of Joon Solutions. “They want to take a step into the future.”

A smart city from scratch

Aside from plans to bring the existing city towards a world of smart city technology, last year, vice chairman of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, Tran Vinh Tuyen, announced the construction of a new smart city in the Vietnamese region.

Led by a consortium of public and private firms including Mitsubishi and Nomura Real Estate Development, the residential area will be “built from scratch”, and include the construction of around twenty large buildings, each with ten thousand homes, in addition to a further forty thousand. Schools, sports facilities, hospitals, and shopping centers will also be built to service the residents. 

The smart city will focus mainly on the use of blockchain technology in relation to managing city infrastructure, governance, and IoT connectivity. Blockchain is expected to make the transference of data more transparent, secure, and efficient.

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