The Smart Cities Race in Vietnam

‘Smart’ is the new black, and it is no different in Vietnam.

ETN Singapore just announced its collaboration with the Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Committee to provide free public WiFi for the city with Altai’s Super WiFi Solution. The project aims to blanket HCMC’s District 1 with free WiFi in a few weeks’ time. HCMC hopes that this will boost tourism, local economy, and bring the city one step closer to becoming a “smart city”.

This is just one of many efforts by the Vietnamese government in recent years to promote its municipalities towards becoming smart cities, in order to tackle various socioeconomic issues such as traffic jams, environmental pollution, and energy conservation.

Da Nang is the first city embarking on such projects, which started their smart city projects as early as 2008. IBM sponsored the city US$400,000 in 2011 to build IT architecture and infrastructure in three main areas: traffic safety, food safety, and water resources management. The city collaborated with the Korea National Information Society Agency to develop an e-Government platform to help reduce bureaucracy and improve public service efficiency. Another project,FPT City Da Nang, was set up in 2011 to build a model smart city that is highly connected and and sustainable. It promises high quality of life, affordable prices, and investment opportunities especially in the IT industry.

Phu Quoc, an island off of Kien Giang Province, is also aiming to become the first smart city of the country, in line with the nation’s vision to turn Phu Quoc into a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in 2020. Vietnam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) is working closely with the local government to materialise the VNPT Smart City model in Phu Quoc by building network infrastructure, data centre, and smart services. High-speed 4G network has already been trialed successfully on the island.

VNPT is not the only telco in Vietnam investing in IoT and M2M. Viettel is bringing IoT to households by integrating Smart Home technologies to its existing fibre Internet and set-top box for TV. Viettel, VinaPhone and Mobifone have been conducting 4G/LTE trials in different cities around the country for the past year, aiming for the service to launch within 2016.

“To have a smart city, there must be smart citizens, smart government officials.”

Government officials are optimistic but refrain from being overly ambitious. Mr. Mai Van Huynh, Vice President of Kien Giang People’s Committee, believes that the smart city project is necessary for Phu Quoc to become a well-connected, sustainable and important SEZ for the country and the region. However, “to have a smart city, there must be smart citizens, smart government officials”, Mr. Huynh.

For a less economically developed country like Vietnam, IoT and smart city solutions hold great promises in solving everyday life issues and improving the citizens’ quality of life. However, it is also important for the government to plan carefully and realistically, prioritise the people’s needs, and not become deluded by the Utopian prospects of the smart cities race.

IoT and Smart Cities will be discussed during the 11th edition of Asia IoT Business Platform, which will take place in Hanoi this November. For more information, drop me an email at

Dinh Viet Anh Nguyen

Jun 17, 2016

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