The Night Vietnam Landed on the Moon

I told them.

I told them when I was in Vietnam during my first visit there in December 2016. I told them at a talk I gave to the leadership of its new “rocket to the future,” the smart city of Binh Duong. I told the big shots from its government what they were building.

I told them that in my country (the USA), the hope of the tortured 20th Century was given a boost by the landing on the Moon. It gave people everywhere a new sense of hope, a feeling of possibilities and wonders to come. The technology that flowed from the innovations that had to take place to get men on the Moon, over time, became part of the global economy and embedded in the world we live in today, especially the world of communications. It fed engineering schools new, inspired students who wanted to go to work for NASA or the Jet Propulsion Laboratory or General Foods, makers of Tang, the first orange drink mix the astronauts had with them in space! It enabled young, aspiring poets like me to wonder about the workings and nature of the universe, which had opened up like the clouds of a Renaissance painting.

I told them that in the 21st Century, Vietnam has a chance to do something similar for its people. “But your ‘Moon landing’ will not be going to space,” I said. No. “Vietnam’s Moon landing will be to start here in Binh Duong and build a great city for the people that will last generations. Then build many more with the goal to create an Intelligent Vietnam. THIS will be your Moon shot!’” They enthusiastically applauded back in 2016. You never know whether the enthusiasm will fade in the thick mist of political change or economic uncertainties.

Guess what? It didn’t.

Mr. Dung holds up the Intelligent Community of the Year 2023 trophy
Photo credit: Barry Gander

On a stage in glorious Manhattan on Thursday night (October 26), that city, Binh Duong, was named the most Intelligent Community on planet Earth for the work it had done. It had accomplished what once may have seemed impossible in their agrarian state populated with rubber plantations, rustic farmers and low, low-wage workers. But it had a citizenry that was patriotic and running fast to catch the new century. It had ex-pats overseas waiting for the moment to return home.

As Mai Hung Dung, Standing Vice Chairman of Binh Duong, and his teary-eyed team accepted the award to loud cheers from their fellow Top7 Communities, I reminded them of these words seven years ago, and I added: “Binh Duong, welcome to the Moon.”

Toying Around

We set up the announcement this year with a gag, which has become a tradition at ICF when the team can actually think of one. This year we had the perfect one. We would open the trophy box and pull out a LEGO toy instead of the trophy. We would pretend not to know why the hell it was in there instead of the trophy with the name of the recipient. We would set up the gag by saying that LEGO had just invested well over $1B on a campus development in Binh Duong. Which it has. Among the reasons the Danish giant toy company designated Binh Duong was its multi-time designation as an Intelligent Community. Yes, ICF helped influence the decision to build there.

Then we called out their name. From there it was cheers, tears, congratulations and hugs.

This was an historic announcement in the life of Intelligent Communities and cities. This is Vietnam’s first Intelligent Community and you sensed that the other Top7 – who will surely be back and some will likely claim that trophy someday – were happy that a movement they so believe in had produced this kind of result.

Binh Duong has moved methodically through the ICF program and Accelerator Strategy, embraced the triple helix and built a scientific pathway to this major league development. It’s a gamechanger for this nation of nearly 99 million people. That’s a lot of people to bring to the “Moon” and there are more coming back home every single day, including engineers and professionals flocking to the future. But now they are looking up and insisting to the politicians and poets and those who do not fear to imagine to take the next giant leap.

Louis Zacharilla
Co-Founder of the Intelligent Community Forum. Louis Zacharilla helped found the Intelligent Community movement. He is the developer of the Intelligent Community Awards program. He is a frequent keynote speaker and a moderator at conferences and events.

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