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Improvement of computer usage and Public Internet Access Ability in Vietnam - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

HANOI, Vietnam -- On 20 November 2008, the Prime Minister of Vietnam accepted the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) proposal to receive a grant of $2,149,100 USD from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the pilot project: “Improvement of Computer Usage and Public Internet Access Ability in Vietnam.”

The Vietnam Public Utility Telecommunication Fund will implement the project over 18 months in three provinces: Thai Nguyen, Nghe An, and Tra Vinh.

The long-term objective of the project is to work together with other government national programs to help rural communities explore advantages offered by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), reducing the digital divide and contributing to poverty reduction.

The 18-month pilot project will work in 99 public access points, installing equipment and providing local people with training on skills to use computer and access the Internet. These access points include cultural post offices, provincial and district libraries, school and hospital libraries, and libraries of the commune’s people’s committee. The project aims to help people improve their lives through using computers and having Internet access.

The most important objective of the pilot project is to build lessons learned for building the national project with broader vision and larger scale to be implemented for five years (2010-2015).

The major components of the pilot project include installment of 705 computers, having the broadband Internet access and staff training to improve service to the public, and making the access points attractive destinations for local communities. The project will also provide skills training, which enables people to use computers and access the Internet for relevant and useful information to improve their lives.

To help engage rural communities, the project will promote the benefits that ICT can provide and inform people of the government’s policy on public telecom utility services and the information about this project.

An important component of the pilot project is setting up a website in accordance with the regulations of Vietnam. The website aims to help people find relevant information tailored to each region’s specific needs and requirements and provided in local languages. The project will monitor progress and evaluate the impact of pilot sites, including both successes and challenges of the project. These lessons will be valuable in planning and implementing the national project.

MIC and BMGF have a shared vision to improve the effectiveness of computer usage and Internet access for those people living in rural areas. The project is in line with the policy of the government of Vietnam, working not for profit but to benefit rural people though providing access to ICT services.

Various government agencies and enterprises endorse the project, including the Government Office, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Public Security, the Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Corporation (VNPT), the Military Telecom Corporation (Viettel), the National Library and Provincial Department of Information and Communications leaders as well as the local communities.

Microsoft is donating software for project activities. In collaboration with MIC, The Asia Foundation will provide training for librarians and staff, supported by a complementary grant from the Gates Foundation.

“Access to the Internet and computers can provide people with the tools and information to improve their economic, educational, and social opportunities. This project marks the first Global Libraries grant in Asia and the first to an agency of the Vietnamese government. We appreciate the initiative taken by the Ministry of Information and Communications, local partners and libraries to develop and implement this project, which will connect people with valuable resources to help improve their lives.” said Ms. Deborah Jacobs, deputy director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Libraries initiative.

Commenting on this pilot project, MIC Minister Le Doan Hop said: “All innovations come from the right vision. MIC considers bringing Internet to rural areas where more than 70% of Vietnamese people live—a significant task. It is a significant mission, which may take a long time to build the public access points in general and to sustain the communal cultural post offices in particular to become the community common house for the rural communities”.

View the original release on the Vietnam Ministry of Information and Communication web site.

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