Vietnam: Catching up with g-revolution

Vietnam: Catching up with g-revolution


Sarah Hisham
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Putting itself on the path of economic growth and development post the War, Vietnam is adopting modern technologies to be on par with other South East Asian countries and is capitalising on the second mover advantage to evolve its geospatial footprint

Vietnam borders the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea and is located next to China, Laos and Cambodia. With a total land area of 325,360 sq km, this country has a population of 89 million people, making it the thirteenth most highly populated country in the world. Vietnam is rich in natural resources such as mineral deposits, forests and marine resources.

After the Fall of Saigon in 1975, Vietnam was in postwar state for 10 years. In 1986, the Sixth Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party initiated an open, marketoriented and globally integrated economy, which has led the country to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world today.

Vietnam has been rising as a leading agricultural exporter and an attractive foreign investment destination in Southeast Asia in recent times. Its long coastline provides excellent harbours, access to marine resources, and many attractive beaches and areas of scenic beauty that are well suited to the development of tourism.

In 2010, Vietnam economy marked 6.8% growth from the previous year. The highest contributor being the industry sector, followed by services and agriculture. Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of Vietnam, has issued a decree on the structuring of the socio-economic development plan for the period 2011-2015, with a target to develop the economy with a rapid and sustainable growth rate and to increase the development potential of the country. Vietnam targets to achieve annual economic growth rate of 7.5-8.5% in the 2011-2015 period, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

Vietnam started its geospatial journey in 1995 when the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) invested USD 6 million to procure GIS software and aerial photos for its land administration system. Till date, land administration remains the key geospatial user under MONRE, supported by survey and mapping. Since 2004, MONRE has been using topographic resources for implementing the Natural Resources and Environment Database (NREDB) Project. This database will integrate all geospatial datasets currently managed by various departments and institutes within MONRE. By integrating these datasets, MONRE will create a central data store from which the Departments within MONRE will be able to access, maintain, analyse and disseminate information.


Government initiatives

Establishment of nodal agency
In 2003, the Vietnam Government issued a mandate for MONRE to undertake a lead role in the formulation of geospatial standards and plans for the development of a national spatial data infrastructure. The first version of geospatial standards was issued by MONRE in February 2007 and fully adopted in August 2008. These standards have been created based on the international geographic information standards ISO TC211.

Natural resource and environment information technology development
In July 2004, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment proposed the "Strategy on application and development of natural resource and environment information technology till 2015 and orientation towards 2020 (No. 179/2004/QD-TTg)." This was approved by the Prime Minister's Office. The strategy gives significant impetus to geospatial technology, as is evident from some of the important components below:

  • By 2010-2015, 50-70% of the equipment used in investigation, survey, observation and cartography shall be converted into digital format and by 2020, the whole process shall be automated.
  • By 2015, the national database on natural resources and environment shall be fully integrated in the national information network on natural resources and environment, regularly updated, online connected to databases of the domains in the sector and between the central and provincial levels.

Space programme
The year 2008 marked a milestone in Vietnam space programme when the nation launched its first communication satellite, VINASAT-1.The project aims to bring independence in satellite communications for Vietnam. This programme has also created bigger interest in geospatial technology and triggered bigger investments and initiatives by the government. Vietnam National Remote Sensing Centre (VNRSC) is responsible for receiving, processing, managing, archiving and supplying satellite image products. VNRSC is also responsible in developing applications of remote sensing, geographical information, LiDAR and GPS technologies especially in the investigation, assessment and monitoring of natural resources, natural calamity and environmental catastrophe.

Verticals driving business

Mapping and surveying
The Department of Survey and Mapping Vietnam (DOSMVN) is responsible for all survey and mapping activities in Vietnam. Vietnam Survey and Mapping Development Strategy 2020 identifies that DOSMVN has a duty to take part in creating the national spatial data infrastructure and completing the topographical database covering the whole country, DTM, aerial and satellite imagery database, sea bed topographical database, cadastral database and other thematic databases within the period 2011-2015.DOSMVN is also leading the implementation of GNSS which will be used for multiple applications in Vietnam. The proposed GNSS network for Vietnam will provide a base framework for survey and mapping which will deliver real time DGPS positioning to support an aggressive mapping programme and will also support the vision for an accurate SDI for Vietnam.

Natural resources
Much of Vietnam's economic growth has been fuelled by the utilisation of natural resources like land, water resources, forest and mineral resources. Geospatial technology plays a significant role in the management of these resources to ensure its sustainability. One initiative by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is to establish a natural resources database which involves every department across the ministry.

With a booming economy, Vietnam's real estate industry has grown at a fast pace over the last few years. As the government shifts focus on industrialisation and modernisation of the country, there is an evident shift in land use pattern from agricultural and unused land to industrial and/or housing. Therefore, the Government of Vietnam decided that construction of a modern land management system is a necessary task, to bring essential benefits for the country's economic development and create social justice and environmental protection, informs Vo Anh Tuan, Deputy Director of VLAP, Central Project Management Unit.

Vietnam consists of 13 million hectares of natural forests and 3 million hectares of plantations. The government has allocated USD 2.5 million per annum for forest management activities, including development of national forest database. Since 1990, the Forest Inventory and Planning Institute (FIPI), under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has been using geospatial technology to ensure the sustainability and monitoring of forests in two aspects – forest areas and forest quality. Its major usage is in forest management, where it spends over USD 300,000 annually for satellite imagery and other geospatial data. The Institute developed forest database in Vietnam, including forest map at 1:10,000 scale, says Nguyen Phu Hung, Vice Director General, FIPI.


The Ministry of Transport Vietnam forecasted in 2002 that the average investment for transport infrastructure per year until 2020 will be approx. USD 5.5 mn. This includes roads, expressways, railways, in-land waterways, maritime, urban and rural transport. The Ministry is currently undertaking Mekong Transport Infrastructure Development Project with funds from the World Bank. This project aims to support economic development of Mekong Delta and to reduce poverty in that area through improved supply chain efficiency for the production, domestic and international trade of the region. Valued at USD 306 mn, the investment aims to improve the national road corridors and the national waterway corridors.

The demand for energy in Vietnam is increasing by 10- 20% per year fuelled by the nation's economic growth. A study done by ISI Analytics showed that power sector will require investments of USD 3 billion per year as of 2010. Meanwhile, the gas sector development will require USD 800 million annually and USD 100 million per year is estimated for the coal sector. The National Rural Clean Water Supply and Sanitation Strategy 2020 by the Ministry of Construction and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have seen hundreds of rural water supply and sanitation facilities constructed nationwide between 2000 and 2010. The immediate objective of this strategy is to have 60% of rural people using clean water of national quality standards with at least 60 litres/capita/day up to 2015. Although the usage of geospatial technology in utility companies (power, gas, water) in Vietnam is still in initial phase, it is predicted to expand in 2-3 years time.

Urban planning and development
The Vietnam Urban Planning Law (2010) does include spatial planning requirements; however, it is still not widely implemented. Currently efforts are on to increase awareness among the practitioners and among the top management in this vertical. At the moment, only Vietnam Institute of Architecture, Urban and Rural Planning (VIAP) is utilising geospatial technology. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Luu Duc Hai, Vice President of Vietnam Urban Planning and Development Association (former General Director of Urban Development Agency, Ministry of Construction) has extended invitation to geospatial consultants to send their proposals to start geospatial initiatives.

Lack of investments: A typical challenge faced by developing countries is lack of investments in technology. Although certain ministries are going full-fledged with geospatial, there are many other ministries in Vietnam still unaware of the benefits.

Lack of expertise: Vietnam also faces limited availability of expertise especially in high-end processing. This has caused its geospatial activities to be limited to mapping, and less in-depth research.

Language barrier: International consultants will have to overcome language barriers in order to successfully implement their services in Vietnam.

Vietnam is on the right track towards full utilisation of geospatial information. Being a late starter has given it the advantage of technology availability. With the first remote sensing satellite on the way, it is foreseen that geospatial data will be easily available in Vietnam by 2015. With the right approach, Vietnam holds several opportunities on the geospatial front, especially in the fast-rising sectors such as transportation, utilities and urban planning.