MBI Project Director: Vietnam is one of the most attractive destinations for foreign investment in smart cities

By Dang Hoa - Nov 14, 2017 | 02:36 PM GMT+7

TheLEADERWith the population of 90 million people who are swiftly adopting the new technologies and the rapid economic growth, Vietnam has many potentials to develop its smart cities, according to Roger Thomas Moyes, Project Director of the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI).

MBI Project Director: Vietnam is one of the most attractive destinations for foreign investment in smart cities
Roger Thomas Moyes, Project Director of the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI), Asian Development Bank.

The smart city innovative solutions introduced in the Smart City Innovation Challenge (SCIC) on November 13 are believed to gain many successes not only in Vietnam but also in other countries. TheLEADER had a talk with Roger Thomas Moyes on this issue.

What are the impacts of the Smart City Innovation Challenge (SCIC)?

Roger Thomas Moyes: It’s the first smart city innovation challenge in Vietnam. And it’s interesting that Vietnam is at an early stage for the uptake of transformational technologies that other cities are starting to use. So we see a huge potential for Vietnam to apply new technology-based solutions in supporting services. This is a huge opportunity for Vietnamese companies to utilize the new technologies to help cities and provinces to provide better services.

What do you think about the development of smart cities in Vietnam?

Roger Thomas Moyes: It is very important because Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are becoming megacities, and the challenge of managing a large number of people in a small space is becoming greater and greater. Therefore, it is time now for Vietnam to be learning and applying all of those innovative solutions here, to make its cities more liveable, easier to manage, and a better place for people, families, and businesses.

What are the financial outcomes of these solutions?

Roger Thomas Moyes: These solutions can help cities and countries save a lot of money. And what we are talking about today are mostly self-financing. So they are very clever, smart skilled technologies that pay for themselves in a short period of time which is not true of the major sort of hard infrastructure that has got a longer payback. If you build a road, a highway or an airport, it will take 10-15 years to get the payback.

How about the return on investment?

Roger Thomas Moyes: Many of the teams today mentioned about the four to five year payback period or 25-30 per cent of return on investment. For the foreign companies coming in, they will have better local partners with local mentors. Among the 15 finalists pitching in SCIC today, we found four teams receiving investments and actually deploying those investments in Vietnam.

MBI is to promote private sector development in Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. And we realized that the most important way that we could do to promote private sector is to build that kind of program and platform where we could bring in and connect foreign technologies, startups with the local ones and help them focus on specific solutions. We are trying to build a marketplace and framework for business innovation in Vietnam and in the region.

Do you think that smart cities in Vietnam attract foreign investors?

Roger Thomas Moyes: Definitely, Vietnam is one of the most attractive investment destinations for foreign investors. There are 90 million people who are rapidly adopting technologies and become more affluent in the middle class; and at the same time, Vietnam has a high level of economic growth. A lot of smart city solutions related to wastewater management, for instance, can be potentially applied in Vietnam.

Do you think that infrastructure is very important for the development of smart cities?

Roger Thomas Moyes: The innovative solutions are the soft infrastructure which will effectively support to utilize the basic infrastructure. So the basic infrastructure like road, electricities, schools, hospitals is still critical. And those solutions will not eliminate the needs for any of hard infrastructure but allow the cities to use the resources more wisely. So you need the hard infrastructure as well as the application of these new business model and technologies.

Is it possible for Vietnam to develop smart cities nationwide while many provinces in Vietnam are experiencing inconvenient infrastructure?

Roger Thomas Moyes: I think Vietnam should develop both smart cities and infrastructure simultaneously. It can adopt some of the things that we are talking about  such as a new way to manage water or sensors; or new ways to handle medical wastewater. But the smart city innovative solutions should go right along with hard infrastructure which is very essential.

How can Vietnam develop its smart cities like other regional and international countries?

Roger Thomas Moyes: Vietnam is a developing country which does not have a lot of resources. Therefore, the innovative solutions are more relevant for Vietnam than they are for wealthier developed countries. Vietnam’s limited fundings need to be used efficiently and the involvement of technologies in services should be encouraged if it saves money. And another great thing about Vietnam is that its population are now ready for technology. They have very good math and science skills which can effectively support them to take advantage of rapid uptake of technology. The smart city innovative solutions should be adopted in Vietnam quickly to produce the positive impact in a very short order.

Do you have any advice for the finalists?

Roger Thomas Moyes: The finalists should connect and listen to the local mentors who are very successful investors as they know the local market, they know what is possible and they know the culture of business in Vietnam. After next three months, we will see the very impactful outcome.

Thank you very much!