weekly roundup Vietnam--a scenic holiday (and shopping) destination littered with Internet cafes, or home to a heavy-handed regime that seeks to suppress cyber dissendents?
According to activist group Reporters without Borders (RSF), it's the latter. The country, shaped like the alphabet S, this week made it to RSF's infamous "Enemies of the Internet" list, alongside 12 other countries that include China and Saudi Arabia.
On its Web site, the RSF said that 10 people have been arrested this year for comments made online. Four are currently being detained, three of whom have been in custody since August and the fourth, a former journalist, since 2002.
Undoubtedly, Vietnam is one Asia's rising stars in terms of how Web-savvy its population is. In July, AMI-Partners named the country as one of the fastest growing economies for the rapid adoption of broadband services by the country's small and midsize businesses.
Its open policy on online adoption over the last decade or so has indeed cultivated a generation of youth, hungry to reach out to the rest of the world, even if foreigners don't end up on their shores.
Backpackers love the free Internet access that (sometimes) comes with hostel accommodation ranging from US$8 to US$20 a night. But, really, it is the locals who throng the Net cafes, picking up e-mail, instant messaging and Web surfing and making themselves at home in the global cyber village.
But is there--or rather, must there be--a price to pay for fast-paced digitization, especially for a country with as tumultuous a history as Vietnam? Has Vietnam enjoyed such wild success getting its citizens to ride the Internet wave that the authorities are feeling seasick over its "loss" of control?
These incidents will by no means lower the Vietnamese appetite for online voyages, but just as the authorities need to ensure fair management of new media boundaries, Netizens need to understand that the freedom to express themselves online--or anywhere--goes hand in hand with responsibility.
In other news this week, find out why experts think Web 2.0 has some way to go before infiltrating businesses. Also, read why you should start putting together eco-friendly tech teams even though recruitment may not be an easy task in future.