In the heart of Vietnam’s southeastern Binh Duong Province is a brand new city in development. Binh Duong Smart City is being created by the Smart City Office, Becamex, the state agency overseeing the project, the academic and entrepreneurial sector and the Standing and the Peoples’ Committees of the government all working in concert to design a modern, environmentally friendly city that will someday be home to one million Vietnamese. The new city already includes Eastern International University, a world-class academic institution, as well as six industrial parks and the region’s first accelerator. Binh Duong Smart City has worked tirelessly, assisted by ideas such as the “triple helix” collaboration method from ICF alumnus Eindhoven, the 2011 Intelligent Community of the Year, to transform a traditionally agrarian, low-population area into a core of Vietnam’s Southern Key Economic Zone.
WiFi for All
The Binh Duong region has historically limited fixed-line infrastructure when it comes to broadband access, and investment costs for expanding it are high. The city has met this challenge by focusing instead on free, public WiFi networks. All government buildings in Binh Duong Smart City, as well as most public and private university buildings, colleges and high schools provide open wireless networks for their staff, students and visitors. Citizens living in more remote areas with limited access can make use of these public hubs as well.
In addition to providing WiFi networks in government and educational buildings, Binh Duong Smart City also has free public WiFi on all buses of the Becamex Tokyu system, which provides transport in and around the central province. The service is widely used already, with upwards of 50 passengers per bus connected to WiFi via their smartphones on a standard trip. Public spaces in the city have also begun providing free WiFi, including supermarkets, restaurants, coffee bars and parks.
While it continues to expand its public WiFi network, Binh Duong has also begun work on a glass fiber network to connect the city's many industrial parks. The city began installation of the glass fiber backbone in 2019 with the help of a collaboration between the regional telecom company VNTT, which provides services in Ho Chi Minh City, and Japanese provider NTT. This partnership allowed Binh Duong to design its glass fiber structure based on Japanese standards, improving broadband speed for the whole city once the project is completed.
Building an Innovation Ecosystem
As in many developing countries, Binh Duong Smart City faced difficulties attracting industry outside of cost-driven manufacturing, as well as backlogs in technical equipment within schools and new businesses. To combat these troubles, Binh Duong Province and Becamex Industrial Development Company (IDC) reached out to Brainport, Eindhoven for advice. Thus began the Binh Duong Smart region project, aimed at accelerating Binh Duong’s economic growth in a sustainable way by implementing the triple helix model of collaboration between industry, government and universities.
Binh Duong Smart City is home to a growing number of Techlabs and Fablabs located in schools, universities and vocational colleges around the region. These labs collaborate closely with industrial partners and Binh Duong’s Department of Science and Technology. Techlabs are locations for practical education in the latest technology, including up-to-date equipment provided by industry partners. They also provide a space for joint research projects between universities and schools and local industry employers. Binh Duong’s Techlabs include a lighting lab at Eastern International University, a mechanical electrical lab at Vietnam-Singapore Vocational College and an ICT lab at Thu Dau Mot University, with a robotics and intelligent systems lab, a power electronics system lab and a data analysis and artificial intelligence lab in the works.
Fablabs are small-scale workshops that offer access to digital fabrication technologies and equipment. They are open to everyone in the community, including students, adults, small businesses and organizations. These spaces provide an environment for clients to test new ideas and prototypes with access to all the needed equipment. Eastern International University in Binh Duong Smart City is currently home to the Becamex Fablab, a collaboration between the university and Becamex IDC, which boasts working spaces and equipment for 3D printing, 3D scanning, laser cutting, laser engraving, CNC and a variety of other hardware, mechanical equipment and tools. Other Fablabs are planned at schools and community centers throughout the region.
Binh Duong also hosts the region’s first mature business incubator at Eastern International University. The incubator began operations in early 2018, providing workspaces, training and support programs and networking facilities for entrepreneurs and new small business startups. The incubator works closely with the Becamex Fablab to grant access to facilities for testing products as well. Local businesses also work directly with Eastern International University on curriculum to ensure that students learn the necessary skills to find jobs in the local economy.
Binh Duong's Department of Science and Technology is now in the process of building the Binh Duong Innovation Hub. The hub will be centered in a historic building in the local community of Thu Dau Mot, which is now being renovated for this purpose. The Binh Duong Innovation Hub will to house a new startup incubator center, an official Fablab and a ‘Tech Playground,’ a permanent facility for STEM education.
Information Technology Training to Improve Rural Life
The Binh Duong province has historically been agrarian with many farmers scattered throughout remote areas. To reduce poverty and improve quality of life in these areas, Binh Duong began a project in 2011 to set up information access points in communes, wards and townships to supply scientific and technological training for local farmers and other citizens. The project team worked closely with the Farmers Association Tan Binh, Farmer Association of Lai Thieu Townlet, Farmers Association of Tan Hiep Commune, Farmer Association of Lai Hung Commune, Farmers Association of Minh Hoa and Farmers Association of Chanh My Commune to set up 87 access points throughout the province.
The access points provide a website portal for accessing local scientific and technological information, technology markets and equipment via the Internet and both local and international information sources. This portal allows farmers to easily locate the information most relevant to their land and situation. The access point staff also provide training courses for local farmers with a focus on accessing and exploiting websites related to prices and commodities, consumption markets, models for raising livestock and plants and other useful resources. Forty-five of these training courses have been completed to date with 900 farmers participating throughout the region.
Binh Duong Smart City Summit
While developing infrastructure and training programs, Binh Duong Smart City has also focused on its most important resource: its people. The city promotes information about its Smart City projects to the whole region via local and regional newspapers, websites and national television channels. Beginning in 2016, Binh Duong has organized and hosted the Binh Duong Smart City Summit, an international event aimed at raising awareness of the Smart City concept among authorities, businessmen, students and citizens of the region while demonstrating Binh Duong’s economic and social value to the region on the world stage. The 2016 and 2017 summits featured keynote speeches by thought leaders in Binh Duong and international industry and educational leaders, a live exhibition and a 24-hour hackathon with 50 student teams participating.
The 2018 Binh Duong Smart City Summit has expanded and will be co-organized by the Korean City of Daejon and the World Technopolis Association, as Korea is one of the major investors in Binh Duong’s industrial development and Korean companies are some of Binh Duong’s largest employers. The yearly hackathon will become a “Creative Ideas for Smart Cities” contest, inviting student teams to present ideas that promote innovation and social improvement. Ninety-six teams from 22 universities in Vietnam, as well as 26 teams from other Asian countries, participated in 2018. After the successful collaboration, Binh Duong has been invited to join the international WTA network and host the 20th annual WTA event.
Binh Duong in the Pandemic
Guided by experience with the SARS and MERS epidemics in Asia, Vietnam responded to the COVID-19 outbreak quickly and proactively. By February 2020, most companies and institutions required staff to work from home and banned travel. International flights were suspended in March except for repatriates, diplomats and other officials with mandatory quarantine periods. Schools and universities were closed down for four months, as well as the bars and restaurants where so much virus transmission has taken place around the world. As of April 2021, Vietnam has experienced fewer than 2,700 cases and 35 deaths from COVID.
Binh Duong’s provincial economy is mainly driven by industry and services, with tourism making only a minor contribution. After a one-month mandatory closing, most factories returned to normal operation. Nonetheless, restrictions on international travel have affected Binh Duong’s growth potential as foreign direct investment slowed. To combat the unavoidable economic downturn, the industrial park developer, Becamex IDC, offered tenant companies a three-month rent holiday and Becamex staff accepted a temporary salary cut.
In 2020, Binh Duong was one of the fastest growing provincial economies in Vietnam, which itself was a world leader in economic growth. With the pandemic slowly loosening its grip on the world, the Binh Duong Smart City expects to return to growth, making their way toward a bright future for the region and beyond.
Smart21 2019 | 2020 | 2021
Binh Duong, Vietnam Journal – Part One
“History is always more exciting, inspiring and approximate of the truth when you focus on telling the story of the heroic ones of the tribe,” Michael Medved, Historian.
In my travel journal from December 2016, I wrote this about my first trip there to the aspiring Intelligent Community of Binh Duong:
Vietnam. The word stirs many images, feelings and opinions, especially as an American. Even now. Here for the first time, and it is gratifying to see the work and ideas of ICF being embraced and put into action. Hopefully the ICF Method will be remembered here as a unifying idea for the Intelligent Community of Binh Duong and for human communities elsewhere in the country. The ICF Method is being put to work in this place of great potential by some amazing people in the Smart City Office, the government and in academia. Many are becoming my friends. I am glad they are working with the Dutch (Eindhoven International Project Office) on this program, since Eindhoven is a former Intelligent Community of the Year and, more than most, totally grasps the “triple helix” method. (Hell, they practically invented it!) I believe these ideas and the “helix” approach can apply everywhere, although at various pace depending on a lot of things. Vietnam will be proof of it someday. The intent and seriousness are here. But as always, as is the case just about everywhere, there is a ways to go. I will say in my talk tomorrow that this place is someday going to be “the pride of Vietnam,” because I can feel that. And I am hopeful for that to happen someday sooner rather than later.Read more
|Bui Cong Duy|
I am on my way back to Vietnam, where the new city of Binh Duong is proudly hosting its second Smart City conference, a Hackathon and performing a multi-committee review of their submission – and the results – from the nation’s first nomination for a city to become one of ICF’s Smart21.
While they did not reach the Smart21 for 2018, they are celebrating the fact that they mobilized to begin the climb up that hill in an attempt to become Vietnam’s first Intelligent Community. And their submission was quite impressive, according to our Analysts.
Can they do it? Can they get all the way up the hill?
They certainly can. The will is there, the support is there at all levels and they understand something that their great violinist, Bui Cong Duy could share with them.Read more
Vietnam’s New City of One Million the Topic of 2017 Revolutionary Community Keynote at ICF’s New York Summit on June 7
|Dr. Viet-Long Nguyen|
(May 30, 2017 – New York City) On June 7 at the ICF Summit, representatives from Binh Duong New City in Vietnam and Eindhoven, The Netherlands, will jointly deliver this year’s Revolutionary Community keynote address. The keynote presentation will be given by Dr. Viet-Long Nguyen, Director IR & Strategy of the Becamex Group, a state-owned agency in Vietnam. The project is an historic attempt by Vietnam to develop its first Intelligent Community. The Binh Duong initiative will literally develop a city for one million citizens that is brand new. The project will rely on ICF’s six core Indicators.Read more
I can still see the roadway at 6:00 AM, lined with people on bicycles and motorbikes, each carrying enormous bags on their shoulders, tethered to a long stick. The bags are filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, all healthy and large. An agricultural land for centuries was waking to another day, and along the roads, people were starting to spread out their goods. Surprisingly, wood-fired, small grills were already cooking sizzling meats and foods. (At 6:00 AM, I thought? Hmmmm. I could still taste the delicious cooked meat and beer from my late-night meal only a few hours before!) Life was springing up, and everywhere there was movement and calm amidst the chaotic bustling. Around this morning glory of human awakening in Asia’s youngest country, something else was being planned for them, although I am sure few were fully aware of what it was or what it was designed to deliver.Read more
(12 JANUARY, 2017 – NEW YORK CITY) - The Vietnamese province of Binh Duong is working closely with ICF’s 2011 Intelligent Community of the Year, Eindhoven, via its Brainport organization, as well as Becamex IDC, a state owned enterprise in Vietnam, to establish the nation’s first modern Tier 1 city before 2020. Among the primary goals is the development of a Binh Duong New City, which will be home to one million people and includes a range of “triple helix” entities, including Eastern International University, which will house the region’s first incubator, and a new citizen-friendly administration building for its local government.Read more