From Vietnam: Improving Internet Access, One Village at a Time

Rugslarge Dinh Kieu Nhung is The Asia Foundation’s Office Manager in Vietnam where she also manages projects that focus on human resources capacity building.  She writes on The Asia Foundation’s blog In Asia, about her recent trip in three provinces in Vietnam to collect data on how to expand internet access across Vietnam. Below is an excerpt; please visit In Asia to read the full post.

It took us much longer than expected to get to Ta Ca, a highland commune in Vietnam’s Nghe An province near the Lao border. Although it was a sunny afternoon, the narrow road from our hotel to our destination, Ta Ca’s Cultural Post Office (CPO), was riddled with potholes filled with slick mud that threatened to send us careening off the road at each twist and turn. The Ta Ca CPO was our first site visit on a tour of 10 such sites across rural Nghe An. We knew we had many long, bumpy roads ahead, but our team, comprised of a representative from the National Library of Vietnam, two representatives from the Nghe An Provincial Library, and myself, was eager in anticipation of what we would discover.

Since public libraries in Vietnam cannot feasibly reach everyone in deep rural or mountainous areas, such as Ta Ca, the government began adding library books and limited Internet access to the 8,000 CPOs that typically only provided post and telecommunication services to the rural communities. Despite such efforts, an overwhelming 80 percent of CPO users still think of them only as places to make phone calls and send mail, while just 17 percent realize that they provide Internet access, according to a needs assessment report published this month by The Asia Foundation with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Which brings us back to the bumpy road on the way to Ta Ca: Our mission was to interview staff, users, and community leaders to better understand what services public libraries and CPOs are currently offering, the staff’s levels of IT and computer knowledge, and how services can be enhanced to meet the needs of the communities.