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Saigon Announces Plan to Give Poor Residents Smartphones to Aid Digitization

As more municipal administrative procedures migrate online, underprivileged citizens without smart devices are often left behind.

VnExpress reports that the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Information and Communications has unveiled a proposal to grant 50–70% of disadvantaged Saigoneers free smartphones in a wider effort to digitize city operations.

Lâm Đình Thắng, director of the department, argued in the proposal that the city's poor have been left out of discussions of digital transformations and processes, and do not have access to the technology needed to take advantage of digitized procedures. Smartphones are also used for pandemic-related apps that track vaccine records, health declarations and other important information.

The agency aims to work with the municipal Social Affairs Department to review all households classified as "poor" and compile a list of people who need a smartphone. According to data from the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, Saigon is home to over 144,000 people officially categorized as "poor." The official designation comprises those earning less than VND2 million a month and are lacking at least three basic standard of living criteria.

While this plan has not been approved, either the city budget or private investment could be used to fund it, and the precise type of smartphone to be distributed would be determined at a later date.

As of 2020, about 61 million people in Vietnam were using a smartphone of some kind. 

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