As it currently stands, there are over 130 million mobile phones in Vietnam. Given that there are only about 90 million people in the southeast Asian nation, this means for every 100 people there are 145 mobile phones. While in actuality the true mobile penetration is somewhere under 100%, the strikingly high number of mobile connections in the country speaks to the ubiquitous nature of cellphones in a country that still has strict laws regulating access to the internet.
It is perhaps because of these laws that consumers in Vietnam are so eager to to use mobile phones. When state-sponsored mobs destroyed a controversial monastery, cellphone users helped spread information and photos of the attack while mainstream news sources were held at bay by the controlling communist government.
Facebook, despite being unofficially banned, has attracted nearly 11 million users in Vietnam, many of whom access the social networking site over their mobile phones. In the last three months alone, over 2.3 million people in Vietnam joined Facebook. That is a 21.6% growth rate, making the country Facebook’s fastest growing market over that period.
Le Quoc Quan, an internationally renowned democracy activist had this to say in an Associated Press interview last year: “The growth of the Internet is endangering the government. People can actually read news now. There is a thirst for democracy in our country.” Quan was arrested shortly after giving this interview, along with 13 other bloggers who were accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
Yet while the state can continue to crack down on influential activists like Quan, the amazing spread of mobile phones in the country has allowed for a sense of community activism, which not even the Vietnamese government can put a stop to. Mobile users are using their phones to capture and share incidents of police wrongdoings which would otherwise have gone unnoticed. While Facebook, Twitter, and mobile phone use in Vietnam provide an outstanding opportunity for consumers to interact with brands and each other, it is also important to note the potential these technological trends have for social change.
What do you see as the most important use of mobile phones in Vietnam? Let us know on Twitter: @Jana
Published January 16, 2013