Vietnam Prepares to Join the Internet

In January 1996, Vietnam installed the equipment for its first full, commercial link to the Internet. The Vietnamese government controls the link and set it up to block material they do not want.

Vietnamese dissident Ha Si Phu's 1995 arrest brought no internal publicity and little international publicity in major media, but the Internet spread the news to every corner of the globe. As has become common with repressive regimes across the world, overseas citizens are using the Internet to criticize the government and call for reform.

The Vietnamese government exercises a high degree of control over information, selectively monitoring telephone and fax calls, requiring permission for satellite dishes, and censoring foriegn publications entering the country. Despite these efforts, banned material thrives in an underground market. The Internet will prove even more difficult to control.

By 1996, only a small fraction of the 70 million Vietnamese had access to the one of the estimated 60,000 computers in the country. Communications infrastructure was growing however; Vietnam had thousands of international telephone lines, compared to nine in 1987. Six organizations provided e-mail access to the Internet in Vietnam.

Revolution extends a hearty welcome to any Vietnamese citizens who have thwarted their government in reaching this page.

Source: January 4, 1996, Associated Press article, "Vietnam hesitates at on-ramp to the information superhighway."