ASEAN: Vietnam’s Information & Computer Technology Leaves Thailand Eating Dust

By Pooky, this blog economics journalist

Abhisit Goes for Paving Roads:

As the Abhisit government decided to spend about US$6 billion paving roads so there will be no dust, under Vietnam’s 5 year ICT development plan, Vietnam has left Thailand’s ICT eating Vietnam’s dust.

“The situation is really bad, because Vietnam has a high numbers of young people who are using the internet, while Thailand’s population are older who have not accepted computers or the internet,” said SIPA deputy head. SIPA is the Thai unit in charged of helping to develop Thailand’s ICT industry-particularly the computer frontire.

Vietnam Goes for Paving the Digital Frontier:

According to SIPA figures, Vietnam now has 24% of its population using the internet, while Thailand is at 21%. Within the internet usage, Vietnam has 4% using broadband or high speed, while Thailand is 2%. Worse off, in Thailand, the basic connectivity to phone line is only 25%.

While Thailand’s internet connectivity have been growing fast, up from about 2.3 million in 2000 to current 16 million, Vietnam has grown much faster, especially after Japan and the US helped the country draw up its 5 year ICT development plan.

Vietnam’s 5 Year Plan on Track:

That plan sees Vietnam, becoming the region’s top producer and exporter of software, where the latest data being early in 2008 figure, sees Vietnam and Thailand neck to neck-with about  4.5 billion baht exports, and about 500 commercial software developing firms in each country.

“Thailand has drawn up its ICT plans under Taksin but it has been disrupted, meanwhile Vietnam relied on Japan and the US for its plan and that resulted in massive numbers of Japanese and US software companies moving into Vietnam,” said SIPA.

Thailand Heads into Open Source:

SIPA said the Abhisit government understands the difficulty Thailand faced and under SIPA directive, has targeted open source or free computer programs development as the alternative to expensive imports. “The Abhisit government has allocated 180 million baht of the Strong Thailand stimulus spending for open source development and while that is not much, it can still help out a great deal,” said the SIPA deputy head.

SIPA said one problem however, is that the Abhisit government has dedicated Thailand to the “Creative Economy Concept” and that have meant an explosion of media and related software use such as animation. SIPA said that Thailand’s open source push is not able to catch up with that push as most in the media have opted to licensed software. “Unfortunately, open source is being used to replace basic software such as office, but at this point is making little inroad into higher level software,” said SIPA.

SIPA Sets Priority:

Many Thai experts have criticized SIPA for this failure to help Thai software developers move up the value chain, but SIPA maintains that economically, it is better to replace widely used software with local developed open source software. Others says, however, that Thai enterprise would benefit much more if advance software such as Business Intelligent, is locally developed and becomes widely available and used.

The Thai software market is about US$2 billion a year, growing at about 8% a year. Open source and commercial holds about 25% each, with the rest depending. Softwar for communications is dominated by open source while software for business is dominated by licensed. Meay software like animation, is dominated by license, with annimation and media stands at about US$500 million a year.

Thai open source have made in-roads into more advance areas like Web Based, CRM, CMS and HR however.

The Future:

Meanwhile, Vietnam has targeted to produce 100,000 ICT graduates a year under its 5 year ICT master plan. Thailand as a whole is currently producing 20-30,000 ICT and related graduates. Many experts said however, that the depth of Thailand’s know how is greater than Vietnam, because it is a new comer. “Thailand’s outsource gets higher value added and higher level of expertise needed than what is heading into Vietnam,” said SIPA.

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