I just arrived from a short trip to Sydney and made a short stopover in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam. I found myself in a familiar place in the backpackers’ area around Pham Ngu Lao where I stayed during my “real” travel to Vietnam last year.
The area is littered with hotels, guesthouses and pubs, synonymous to Bangkok’s Khaosan Road. The selling point for each hotel is that guests have free Internet access within their premises. This means tourists who can’t seem to disconnect with the web wherever they go (just like me) don’t have to roam the streets and risk limbs amid the free flowing motorbikes and cars heading to all directions just to find an Internet cafe. Internet speeds within these guesthouses are respectably fast too.
The Internet business is indeed very much alive in Vietnam’s biggest cities, Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. Recently, Yahoo! partnered with local Internet cafe owners to provide services under Yahoo-sponsored services. These cafes will offer exclusive Yahoo-branded services, such as a Vietnamese search service called Yahoo! Questions and Answers designed to make it easier for Vietnamese users to search by keywords.
The first Yahoo! coffee shop opens at 217 Nguyen Van Cu in HCMC’s District 5 last Tuesday. Yahoo! says that the country now has over 15 million people online, or an Internet penetration rate of 18%. It forecast the number of users will double to 30 million in 2010.
Yahoo! Vietnam has helped some Internet cafes in Hanoi and HCM City to repair and decorate their cafes to attract Internet users. Yahoo also helps train staffs of these cafes so that they are able to advise and instruct Internet users about new Internet services.
Along with investing in Internet cafes, Yahoo has launched the Yahoo! Hoi va Dap (Ask and Answer) service which is a free online service for Vietnamese Internet users.