Vietnam in recession time

Today Huy Zing and I went to IMB Vietnam office on the 5th floor of Diamond Plaza to “sell” BarcampSaigon for some sponsorship. We were warmly received by Charles Manuel, IBM’s Program Director of ASEAN Strategic Initiatives & IDR Software Group and Ms. Khue, his colleague. The meeting was very fruitful: IBM will be our Platinum sponsor, but while we were talking about IBM and Barcamp, their strategy for Vietnam was revealed.

In a matter of one year, IBM’d like to dig local developers out of their hole and put them together in the so-called “developer community” and get as many of them as possible to visit DevelopersWorks, IBM’s resources center for developers. According to Charles, most developers are located in either Ho Chi Minh City, which accounts for 60% of them, or Hanoi (around 40%). And it seems to us all (IBM and Barcamp organizers) that it’s hard to hunt for those hidden treasures :-) In Barcamp organizers’ opinions, the reverse order is true.

Why would IBM want to do that, and why Vietnam anyway? IBM is a 100-year-old company with more patents registered than any other company in the world [Charles's words]. It’s a company of innovation but for the past decades, these innovative ideas/ products/ services came from their research labs. This is now changed. Innovation comes from the people, be it their customers, independent developers, and so on. It’s the Open Source philosophy. Innovation comes from collaboration, not from proprietary and Closed Source assets. What IBM will do is to form this community and encourage innovation to take place, and will in effect invest their money in some of the most interesting ones.

Conventional wisdom has it that innovation in the computing industry comes from Sillicon Valley. While this still holds true, it makes Sillicon Valley a bit crowded for everyone inside. There’s no room for making a big difference, especially in times like this. IBM wants to go out and breathe some fresh air. They want to start anew. And Vietnam, in its state of initial developments, is a good destination for IBM. In other words, the Big Blue is trying to reinvent itself in this emerging market. IBM is not alone though, there are two Silicon Valley people among organizers who are either starting up something or building a strong presence here. Someone from Da Nang, to whom I’m about to talk to about E-learner Platform 2.0, is leading an outsourcing company. And he was a Silicon Valey CEO. This presents a new trend.

And challenges too. There’s no possible way to estimate the number of developers in Vietnam. Just as it is impossible to count how many Twitters exist in this country. These are the two questions that BarcampSaigon people were asking ourselves ever since we met. Initially we were afraid that there would be very few local geeks attending BarcampSaigon, but surprisingly, they are filling up the space. This, still, is not the answer to either of the questions above. Moreover, most local developers are still unfamiliar with Sillicon Valley concepts such as Ruby on Rails, Extreme Programming [including me, but I'm not a developer hehe] and one amazing thing is universities, colleges, training centers are producing thousands of developers every year but very few of them know what to do with the training they received.

The latter is pretty easy to solve though [right, IBM?]. Charles said it’s similar to 60 years ago in the US when IBM visited Universities and talked about Computer Science and nobody knew what it was. So IMB will look back and take the same approach that they used. They will go and talk to the students about things that they haven’t got the faintest idea about. Wish them luck.

The first is, however, where the money comes from :-) I mean, If you, my readers, have some idea that help IBM get those developers out of their comfort zone, go talk to Charles and if he likes it, he’ll give you some money to do it. Seriously! One of the things IBM will be doing in to spend some big bucks on localizing their DeveloperWorks. They had quite a success in China when around 500,000 visited the resources center every month. So if IBM is to translate it, that would definitely make a difference. They will also be organizing several developers’ contests such as the “XML superstar” to attract local developers. This is another way for you to earn some sweet prizes. All of these stuffs will be announced at BarcampSaigon so make sure you are there when it happens.

Google, on the other hand, is taking a more active role in South East Asia. They’re organizing DevFest events for the first time here and it looks like they’re gonna be successful. By the time of this writing, Google DevFest Vietnam has attracted around 600 developers, but only the first 300 are accepted due to limited space at the University of Technology. Funny enough, we estimate many of those attendees are students of the UT or those who just want to go there to get a free T-shirt or see how our Google is organizing the event. I’m sure Google will not be happy with this but if they are happy, they will invest a lot of resources into this potential market. So put them on your watchlist too :-)

In the coming months, we will work together to bring good stuffs to the local developer community, such as BarcampSaigon on Nov 15, WordCamp for WordPress bloggers in March, and other exciting open events, either in an online or offline form, to actually get people together. So hold your breath :-)

Anyone feels like talking about financials? I’m expecting to meet a nice lady from TIAA-CREF – one of the biggest financial services firm in the US, who has had 15 year working experience in the financial service sector in the US and know lots of financial geeks [can we call them geeks anyway?] from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, etc. Ok, I know some of you guys will scream at me because those guys are the ones who’re actually making the world a worse place. And I had the same feeling when I saw the message from my friend: they will screw Vietnam up.

But come to think about it, our economic struture is pretty different from that of the US. The American way allows firms like Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns to take neverending risks and certainly these firms used to make a hell lot of money. But now they are gone. Vietnam is another story though. Investment banking is a new thing. Regulation will be stricter and yeah, ours is still a premature market economy, which, in this case, is good for everyone. Maybe the financials also find it hard to breathe in Wall Street?

So, we’ll see what’s lying ahead. But sure thing: Wall Street and Sillicon Valley are here. Go to Barcamp Saigon to get a feel of this trend!

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2 Responses to Vietnam in recession time

  1. TaiTran says:

    Wow that’s a huge list of greatest possible opportunities.

    Thanks Hung

  2. AnhHung says:

    You’re more than welcome!

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