Developing Vietnamese E-Commerce Needs Legal Framework

HANOI, Dec 1 Asia Pulse – The emergence of Vietnam’s first dot com companies has raised concerns about the country’s lack of technical infrastructure and a legal framework for the development of e-commerce.

Pundits say a legal framework should be in place to provide crucial regulations on online transactions, digital signatures, network security, intellectual property protection and cyber crimes.

But the industry is divided on this issue, with a group of Internet companies pushing for the establishment of a legal platform to regulate e-commerce before it comes into operation.

Other industry players suggest the country should get e-commerce underway before working to develop a legal platform. “We have to raise awareness and convince the community that e-commerce is a crucial part of a knowledge-based economy,” Mai Liem Truc, general director of the General Department of Posts and Telecommunications (GDPT) said.

“Therefore, it is not necessary to have all the conditions to establish strategies for the development of ecommerce. Just do what we can we today, never hold off until tomorrow.”

There are about 30,000 businesses in Vietnam and overseas Internet portals have been eyeing ventures with domestic partners to tap this market of 80 million people.

The country’s first two dot com firms, MeetVietnam.com and VietnamThink.com, were born last month after a period of positive growth in the IT sector.

Truong Gia Binh, president and CEO of the Corporation for Financing and Promoting Technology (FPT) believes that the business-to-business platform will offer Vietnam the opportunity to take advantage of the Internet.

This will speed up the adoption of ecommerce and offer the country a tremendous chance to grow, he said.

GDPT’s Truc believes the first step should be to create an environment where the entire society is aware of the importance of information and knowledge.

This will give enterprises, organisations and individuals access to information resources.

Truc cites this as a chance for the Internet industry to contribute to national economic development, enrich people’s knowledge and improve their standard of living.

According to an action plan recently adopted by the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum, Vietnam needs 10 years to fulfil its commitment of developing a fully fledged e-commerce industry.

Experts contend that while 10 years is long enough, a number of obstacles will have to be overcome before the country emerges as a viable e-commerce player.

Vietnam needs to build sufficient IT infrastructure, work to cut communication costs and establish a favourable legal environment for e-commerce that has the confidence of both companies and consumers.

The industry must also work to raise public awareness of Internet applications in learning and trading. Companies should encourage voluntary public participation in ecommerce.

“With a population of 80 million, Vietnam is one of Asia’ sleeping giants in terms of e-commerce,” Len Cordiner, CEO of the Silicon Valley-based Meetchina.com said.