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Ethical AI Brings New Opportunities to Vietnam


Among ASEAN countries, Vietnam is fast becoming a rising star in the field of AI, ranking 5th in overall AI publications in Southeast Asia, and 13th out of 50 in AI readiness from participating Asian countries according to a recent World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) survey. These rankings can be seen as a harbinger of Vietnam’s high potential to make a splash in the field of AI. However, an article in Vietnam.Net also pointed out one critical bottleneck for Vietnam’s continued AI development: lack of talent. The article estimates that there are roughly 1,600 Vietnamese working in the field of artificial intelligence, but only 700 of them reside within Vietnam. Furthermore, only 300 of these 700 are considered true AI experts with the needed expertise in key areas such as computer vision, data analytics, and machine learning.


Attracting talent is definitely a priority for the largest AI research institution in Vietnam, VinAI. According to employee testimonials, Vietnamese researchers living abroad cited a desire to come back and help solve Vietnam’s social issues as one of the main drivers for returning to the country and working for VinAI. VinAI for their part has been able to provide a world-class environment on par with other top research institutes globally, which was stated as the second biggest driver. Attracting Vietnamese nationals to come home is no small feat, but to truly take their place as an ASEAN leader, Vietnam will have to attract world-class talent from the foreign labor pool as well.


One potential way to develop leading regional and international AI institutions in Vietnam would be to develop international alliances or partnerships with foreign institutions. Vietnam already has a partnership model with Australia through the AUS4INNOVATION program. Partnership opportunities allow for faster dissemination of crucial research ideas. In addition, partnerships can bring in a wider range of opportunities that will allow AI workers to apply their skills. Growing the pie of AI-related jobs in Vietnam ensures that hard-earned AI talent in Vietnam has access to suitable professional development opportunities.


Another potential advantage for Vietnam could be to enable and support ethical AI development. Ethical AI is rapidly being recognized as a new paradigm for AI development, with particular focus on how to ensure AI will create positive and equitable impact across different parts of human society. This is done through a calculated assessment and process coined as ethics as a service (EaaS) and delivered by global consultancies like Ethical Intelligence. As AI technologies are deployed, they will change work force dynamics and job descriptions. Embracing EaaS can help companies like VinAI better understand these changes, so that employees can be reskilled or new roles can be created to work with intelligent machines, which will help be better prepared for the changes in workforce and address the talent shortage.


The ASEAN region overall is lagging behind the USA and Europe in the generation of ethical AI knowledge and its applications. Fostering a world-class ethical AI development environment within Vietnam would surely attract much needed data scientists to the region to develop AI products that not only increase the standard of living, but also do so in an equitable manner. Developing ethical AI could be the strategic edge needed to attract global talent fervently needed to supply the growing talent demand in Vietnam.

More importantly, it is crucial for Vietnam to develop an ethical AI framework alongside its national AI strategy from a sovereignty and security perspective. AI development could certainly unlock great economic benefits, but could also incur significant backlash if the ethics of AI development are not thoroughly considered. This is particularly significant as Vietnam is an export-focused economy that relies heavily on their labor and manufacturing advantages. A high degree of industrial automation could push a sizeable amount of labor out of work if widely adopted without considerations for impact on existing labor markets. Strategically developing ethical AI for the local Vietnam context could help tackle the socio- economic disruptions caused by AI. Recognizing the potential disruptions to labor markets and countering them with government education programs and ethical AI subsidies could be a way for Vietnam to get ahead of the trend and mitigate the negative repercussions of AI automation.


With a location in Vietnam, Aiforgood Asia is uniquely positioned to localize leading ethical AI practices to the specific needs of Vietnamese society. We are also well positioned to help implement projects that can facilitate knowledge-sharing and showcase the power of AI for the betterment of society. Adopting and embracing AI ethics combined with an understanding of global discourse, Aiforgood Asia will be able to provide guidance and solutions that can help Vietnam realize its full AI potential.


Wei-Ann Chang,

Researcher at Aiforgood.asia