At conference on “Connecting and developing AI community” held on 7/10, Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thanh Thuy, University of Technology (VNU), gave an overview of the current situation of Vietnam’s AI community development in comparison to the world.
Citing a story from the famous robot Sophia, Professor Thuy said that developing AI community includes not only humans but also intelligent robots. AI community in the world is developed quite naturally including 4 core teams: researchers, scientists in schools, research institutes; technology developers from industrial corporations, application deployment teams and especially users of AI products.
Analyzing the community deploying AI applications in various fields, Professor Thuy said that among every 30 people working in hardware and software, 1 is in AI (accounting for 3.3%). He added, the team of researchers and developers accounts for only 6%, while the force of application developers and direct users occupies 94%. This information helps orient the AI community in Vietnam accordingly.
In Vietnam, about 700 people involving in technology development and application deployment, of which 650 are direct users. Thus, the total number of employees is only 1,350, of which 300 are at master and higher levels. Compared to 180,000 people working in IT field, the rate is at about 1/1000 only and 3.3% compared to the world. The number is considered too small, he stated.
According to Professor Thuy, the situation is gradually being improved. The formation of Vietnam’s AI development and cooperation alliance, which is reflected in the fact that local community of AI researchers and deployers has joined with leading experts in the world to organize directionally international conferences. 2018 marked the first A14Life event held at University of Technology. Since then, the national event on artificial intelligence (AI4VN) has been annually held by Ministry of Science and Technology, or alike such as Zalo AI Summit and VietAI Summit.
AI community connecting model
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vu Hai Quan, Director of Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vice President of FISU shared his experience in forming a network of universities and research institutes in HCMC. Mr. Quan introduced a 6 core-model proposed for cooperation to connect and develop the AI community in the locality.
Firstly, it is the Data Center training, secondly an R&D center establishment having basic research on the AI core technology. The Startup Center creating startups is the third category. Following is a demonstration center to introduce products and a data center to help connect businesses and the Government. Besides, he emphasized on building a connection platform between alumni and scientists abroad who can participate in co-training and research.
The open scientific model is an initiative shared by Mr. Nguyen The Trung, Chairman of General Director of DTT Company, Executive Board of Digital Vietnam Knowledge System. He said, to develop AI in the future, it is necessary to build shared platforms based on shared databases. The open science model will help access and improve the efficiency and productivity of the science and research system, helping reduce the cost of duplication in data collection, creation, transfer and reuse the scientific literature and materials. The solution allows further studies from the same data source; expanding opportunities for national and global participation in the research process as well as verify more accurately the research results.
He cited, for example, using data from PubMedCentral (online repository of the US National Institutes of Health) showing that 25% of daily users are by universities, 17% by companies, 40% are individuals and the remainder from the government or in other categories (UNESCO, 2012). In addition to economic benefits, the publicized research data can promote scientific understanding, evidence-based practice and citizen-science.
In Vietnam, MoST also conducts open science research, publishes documents and provides government policies to manage the connection and sharing of digital data of management bodies. “It is the legal and foundation for open science”, Trung stated that in the period of 3 – 9/020, the Digital Vietnam Knowledge Project together with a group of 200 experts worldwide made common research on anti-pandemic in Vietnam with the big data collected. “We will work with the MoST and the Ministry of Health to open these data on the portal of “itrithuc”, the national data portal”, Trung shared.
The Digital Vietnam Knowledge Project has made proposals to create a community and advise on policies on science and technology development based on the spirit of open science, while helping connect research results in the field of local science and technology. In which, specific goals are to help form a research network (more than 1000 researchers) and to closely cooperate with the State’s science and technology programs, currently focusing on health major issues and then with other fields. “Such way also helps establish channels of key national research programs, the health sector and cooperate with local R&D organizations”, said Trung.
He shared that open science is a new trend and will become inevitable in the coming period. There are problems requiring different parties to join as no research unit have sufficient data and people to conduct, especially climate change and medical issues are big problems for Vietnam. The formation of a new research method that helps parties fully share from collecting and processing data process and producing results will help us go faster”, he said. The fact has been proven during the anti-Covid-19 program in Vietnam recently.
The role of enterprise
Professor Nguyen Thanh Thuy highly appreciated enterprises and universities on their active cooperation and connection in AI development. He said once the working team was established, AI national strategy development expert had a combination since the beginning including enterprises, research institutes, universities, representatives of ministries, sectors and localities. “The national strategy helps promote, synchronize and facilitate the formation of new organizations directly related to AI”, said Professor Thuy.
Dr. Nguyen Long, Vice President cum General Secretary of Vietnam Informatics Association, recognizes that small and medium scaled-enterprises have shown strong growth and integrated into the AI community, typically startups and young scientists. Mr. Long also said that AI development in Vietnam still faces with difficulties and challenges with big matters of time and humanity.
For AI, it is impossible to immediately have applied products without reserving time. “I see a lot of Vietnam products during the Covid-19 pandemic as a waste of money”, he said frankly. We need to have qualified persons at AI, good at machine and data science knowledge. Pointing out weaknesses in data, Dr. Long mentioned that data on national population, digital maps or businesses, etc. remains limited and scattered. To solve the core problem, thickening the data is extremely important. “In AI, data science should always come first,” he said.
Mr. Vu Duy Thuc, Chairman of VietAI community stated one of the important goals besides training is to create a bridge between domestic and foreign AI community. Currently, a network of AI experts from Silicon Valley (USA), Europe and Japan have been formed. According to Mr. Thuc, abroad connection as a shortcut will help the community of young people who are learning AI in the country update and catch up with the latest technology and techniques, especially from the big groups like Google or Facebook.
In addition, VietAI promotes the connection of 3 main factors: academic (universities and research institutions), enterprise (including corporations and startups) and the Government, Ministries and agencies involving to AI operation and policy. “The connection helps create projects to develop together, not only in terms of the community but also in producing economically viable products in Vietnam”, said Mr. Thuc.
Mr. Kim Wimbush, Counselor of Australian Embassy, Program Director of Aus4Innovation expressed his pleasure in accompanying the program including training, research connection, application, data to AI community development. “A strong AI community will be the key to unlock the great potential of AI, helping develop and shape the future of the digital economy in Vietnam. This development will create advantages for the partnership between Vietnam and Australia. “We look forward to continuing to closely work with the Ministry of Science and Technology and the AI community to support each other and maximize their potential of AI technology,” said Kim Wimbush. Aus4Innovation program, implemented in the period of 2018 – 2022 with a total budget of AU$13.5 million aims to help strengthen the capacity of Vietnam’s innovation system, prepare for the future of technology and the digital economy. The program is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), managed by the Australian Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) with a strategic partner of the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology.