Vietnamese social media networks spring up to challenge Facebook (Nikkei Asian Review)

Vietnamese companies have started a string of new social networks in a bid to crack a sector dominated by Facebook, which boasts more than 60 million users out of a population of over 96 million. 

The latest debut was announced on July 23 by Gapo Technology, a unit of Hanoi-based G-group. 

Gapo is a homegrown social network with chat, posting and other functions. “We are confident of being able to attract 50 million users by 2021,” CEO Ha Trung Kien said at the launch event in Hanoi. 

Gapo arrived just one week after Nguyen Manh Hung, Vietnam’s minister of information and communications, told a gathering of IT executives in Ho Chi Minh City that he wanted more native social networks.

Hung said it was time for Vietnam’s IT industry to move up the value chain after a long focus on outsourcing. “It is high time we develop a new social network that is more humanitarian and really values its clients,” Hung said. He called for local IT companies to create a unique social network that can compete with the likes of Facebook, according to local media. 

The ministry of information and communications would support businesses by issuing a policy for sandboxes so that businesses could securely test new technological models in a controlled and secure environment, Hung reiterated.  

Since January, three social networks have been launched by local companies. Ho Chi Minh City-based based Hahalolo Travel Social Network officially announced its platform on June 10, setting an ambitious target of 2 billion users by 2024. 

The following day, the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Communication and Education and state telecom carrier Viettel Group launched the VCNET social network. VCNET is designed to “fight against incorrect information and fake news,” said Nguyen Thanh Long, deputy head of the commission. 

Two more social networks are set to take off in the second half, bringing the total number of new platforms developed by private investors to five this year, according to the ministry. Last year, the number was two, according to local reports. 

Industry observers say these moves could accelerate owing to a cybersecurity law that came into effect in January. The law requires companies engaged in telecommunications, online services and online content to locate offices and servers in Vietnam and store data within the country. 

This has encouraged local companies to start social networks in anticipation that foreign players will scale back their presence in Vietnam, observers say.

In January, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc directed the ministry of information and communications to do more to ensure foreign social networks comply with the cybersecurity law. He also told it to continue its effort to promote homegrown alternatives, according to local media reports. 

Hanoi has increased pressure on Facebook and Google since the cybersecurity law was implemented. In June, the ministry of information and communications asked the two U.S. tech giants to open representative offices in Vietnam, perform tax obligations, and manage content within the country. The ministry said the companies collected advertising revenue of $235 million and $152.1 million, respectively, in the country in 2018.

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Nikkei Asian Review

14 August 2019

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