Illustration by Trịnh Lập
By Minh Hương
Receiving her two-month-old son’s birth certificate from a Grab driver, Nguyễn Thị Thanh Nhàn, 22, breathed a sigh of relief because she had saved time and avoided the risk of going to a public office. Instead, she had completed the procedure online.
“I needed the birth certificate but I have a baby and didn't want to go to Láng Thượng Ward’s People's Committee. It's crowded and far too risky given the novel coronavirus epidemic outbreak.”
Nhàn used the national service portal, and it took her less than two days.
The novel coronavirus (officially named Covid-19) has shut many industries across Việt Nam for about a month now, but it has opened people's eyes to the country's e-Government plan.
On February 12, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc chaired a national online conference between the National Committee on e-Government and the e-Government Steering Committee, saying boosting the work of e-Government will help prevent diseases caused by the new strain of coronavirus.
On December 9, Việt Nam launched the national public service portal, an electronic platform to connect the Government with people and enterprises, which is scheduled to be officially opened on Monday after nine months of construction.
The portal has eight components: a national database on administrative procedures and FAQs related to procedures, a login and verification system to connect with ministerial and provincial-level public service portals, an e-payment system, a comments section for citizens and enterprises, integrated public services for ministries, agencies and localities, and online support services.
Through dichvucong.gov.vn, people and enterprises can log in to public services at ministry and provincial levels to conduct online public services while monitoring the settlement of services, assessing the quality of administrative settlement and sending feedback.
It is not the first time Việt Nam has launched a public portal, but those in the past were abandoned due to low connectivity and people who preferred doing their paperwork in person, especially the elderly.
My neighbour who is over 60 told me that she did not know how to use e-services on her phone.
"And more importantly," she said, "I need someone to talk to, someone that I can ask if the paperwork is in order.”
Nguyễn Thu Thủy, an official in Quán Thánh Ward, Ba Đình District, said the epidemic had made people change their habits.
Thuỷ added that she had seen fewer people waiting in the ward office since the Lunar New Year holiday.
A representative from the Ministry of Information and Communication’s Authority of Information Technology Application said: “The epidemic period is a chance to boost the public portal and online services in Việt Nam.”
Two months since launching the portal, it has more than 44,200 accounts, more than 13.4 million visits, and more than 854,000 orders, of which 6,900 have been successfully processed.
However, for Nguyễn Hoàng Dương, 35, the portal is not yet meeting his expectations.
“Having a portal is okay, but it needs to be improved,” he said, adding that some services could not be paid for online.
"We still need to go and make payments in person after putting everything online. It’s no use doing most of the work online when you still have to sign documents and pay in person.”
"They are encouraging people to process their paperwork online with the portal to avoid the new virus spreading, but the portal itself is not ready, so people still need to visit public offices,” he said.
According to data, paperless administrative procedures reached 10.76 per cent at the end of last year, twice as it was in 2018.
PM Phúc has said the rate is too low and told the meeting on February 12 that it needed to reach at least 30 per cent this year.
Phúc told the meeting on Wednesday that the e-Government would increase transparency and fight corruption, making people as centre so that no one is left behind.
“If people do not use it, no changes will happen,” he added.
I hope the coronavirus will come with a silver lining, To be positive, I hope more people will start using the e-Government portal in the same way they have started washing their hands regularly. But I know that even it wasn't for the threat, people would use the portal more if it was more developed, otherwise it will fall by the wayside like its predecessors. VNS