All institutes, universities and colleges nationwide will have access to the Internet by 2003. By 2005, central hospitals and half of the country's secondary schools and provincial hospitals are expected to be online, the government said in the report.
According to national telecommunication regulator General Department of Posts and Telecommunications (GDPT), the current Internet penetration rate is just 0.22%, or a total of 175,000 subscribers. To reach the target, the country will have to attract almost 20 times the number of subscribers it currently has.
The market is dominated by the same four ISPs (Internet service providers) who have been operating since the country gained access to the Internet in 1997. National carrier Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications (VNPT) has a 56% share of subscribers through its VDC subsidiary, followed by the Corporation for Financing and Promoting Technology (FPT) with 31%, SaigonNet and NetNam.
Recently, FPT and Vietnam Electronics and Telecommunications (Vietel) were granted Internet access service provider (IASP) licences independently of VNPT, and a total of 10 companies now have ISP licences, VNPT said. The extra competition is forcing prices lower and will help Vietnam achieve its subscriber targets, VNPT said.
Internet penetration across the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) group of countries varies very widely.
According to figures from London's Taylor Nelson Sofres Interactive, Singapore has the highest Internet penetration rate in ASEAN at 52% followed by Malaysia (21%) and Thailand (18%). Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar have lower penetration rates than Vietnam.
ASEAN governments set up a plan in 1999 called e-ASEAN that was designed to help less-developed countries in the group build up their Internet usage and online capabilities.
The 10 countries in ASEAN are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.