CÀ MAU – Natural disasters have caused losses worth VNĐ1.06 trillion (US$46 million) in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Cà Mau this year, destroying public infrastructure, houses and crops, according to the local Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control, Search and Rescue.
During the last dry season between the end of last year and the early months of this year drought caused a water shortage for more than 28,000 households and 43,583ha of forests.
Then, in recent months, heavy rains and strong winds flattened or blew off the roofs of 859 houses and damaged 43,460ha of rice, 578ha of vegetables, 408ha of fruits, and 20,500ha of aquaculture.
Heavy rains and high tides inundated 470km of canals and rural roads and the Hồ Chí Minh Road in the districts of Năm Căn and Ngọc Hiển.
Erosion in both the eastern and western coastal areas and mangrove forests occurred on a total length of 105 km. Erosion also damaged 46km of roads at 1,367 sites.
Cà Mau, the country’s southernmost province, is a peninsula with around 254km of coast. Its western sea dyke has been eroded and the area has subsided badly at many spots.
The province People’s Committee declared an erosion emergency in the 108km western dyke two times this year as a total of 5.8km in U Minh and Trần Văn Thời districts were dangerously affected.
Natural disasters caused the death of five people at sea and two others to go missing.
The province spent VNĐ697 billion ($30 million) on disaster relief this year.
It has petitioned the Government to allocate funds for upgrading 23km of the Sông Đốc – Cái Đôi Vàm section of the western dyke.
It has set up teams comprising more than 8,600 people for rapid response to natural disasters.
Lê Quân, chairman of the province People’s Committee, has ordered a survey of all damages caused by natural disasters to provide relief to and rehabilitate households.
Local authorities should closely monitor weather forecasts and take proactive steps to safeguard agriculture and step up inspections to ensure the safety of irrigation works, dykes and embankments, he added. –
Saigon man removes trash from dirty city canal every day
Seeing his skin wounds caused by immersion in black water while removing trash from a canal, many people think the 69-year-old man is crazy. But he turns a deaf ear to their comments.
Hurrying to put on his boots, Ho Chi Cuong from Binh Chanh commune in Binh Chanh district in HCM City drives his old motorbike to Ong Do Canal every day, where he and his grandchild clean up and clear the water flow.
Cuong said Ong Do Canal became seriously polluted in 2018. Domestic waste, together with thick hyacinth, blocked the flow. As the water got stuck, the waste decomposed, creating thick layers floating on the water surface and giving a bad odor.
The Binh Chanh commune authorities then encouraged institutions and individuals to help upgrade the canal. Cuong asked volunteers to take part in collecting garbage and cleaning the canal.
But the canal had been cleaned for only a short time when people again started throwing waste into it. The flow was once again blocked and the water turned black again.
“I saw the canal becoming seriously polluted and I decided that my grandchild and I will collect trash on a voluntary basis,” he said.
The two of them go to the canal every morning, where they steep themselves in water to pick up garbage.
“At first, I did not have any tool to pick up garbage. I just put myself in water and picked up every plastic bag and plastic box. After each cleaning, I had to give up by clothes, because they could not be cleaned. My skin became ulcerated because of the dirty water,” he recalled.
However, as he wants to set an example for those who drop litter, he vows not to give up the unpaid job. Every morning, he goes to the canal with his grandchild and uses a fishing net to collect garbage from the canal.
“Many people say I am paid for the waste collection, because no one would be foolish enough to do this for free. Others say I have too much free time, so I do something that will never bring results,” he said.
However, he doesn’t care about the comments, because he is doing good work for society.
Feeling pity for the man, the local authorities gave him a junk made from an old boat. Thanks to the boat, he doesn’t have to give up clothes every time after working and can collect waste more effectively.
“I row the junk, while my grandchild picks up waste. If we see too much waste in the same place, we use a racquet to collect it and put into a bag,” he said.
Digital transformation offers better transportation services
Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Ngoc Dong talks about the digital transformation program of the Ministry of Transport.
|Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Ngoc Dong. — Photo baogiaothong.vn|
In building an e-Government, digital transformation is a major policy of the Government. How is this being implemented by the Ministry of Transport (MoT)?
The Ministry of Transport has promoted the application of information technology and building e-Government towards an online working environment instead of a traditional one with paper documents and providing online public services to facilitate and reduce costs for people and businesses.
The agency is also promoting the development of databases for digital data-based management and operations. However, at this time, the digitisation and information technology (IT) application is meant for faster and more convenient management, but in fact we are still doing it on the old platform, mainly by manual methods.
How is the digital transformation at the ministry different from the process of applying IT previously?
According to Decision 749/2020 of the Prime Minister, transport and logistics are two of the eight priority fields for digital transformation. Digital transformation in the transport sector is different from the IT application process which was carried out previously.
It will fundamentally change management methods, not simply modernise old management methods.
This is a long process and needs to be done regularly.
During this process, it is necessary to promote and form new models of transport management and business, without precedent and which may not be in the legal policy system.
Therefore, with the digital transformation programme, MoT sets a vision to 2030: “Transport is a pioneer in innovation and comprehensive digital transformation to meet the strategic goals of the industry. The sector will apply digital technology and use digital data extensively in all management activities to develop modern and advanced transport infrastructure; protect the environment and ensure traffic safety.”
What are the specific goals of the MoT’s digital transformation programme?
The first is to raise awareness about deep digital transformation in the entire transportation sector. Digital transformation will be performed in all management activities of MoT, accompanying transportation businesses in all digital transformation activities.
For digital government development, the agency’s goal is to build a database for all business operations and use digital data for the automation of decision-making and supporting decision-making.
The industry also focuses on building systems to serve people and businesses in the direction of administrative reform, facilitating and reducing costs and social resources.
For the digital economic development goal, we set a goal through reforming management methods and applying digital technologies to facilitate people and businesses in using transportation services and reduce logistics costs.
Specifically, digital transformation must be done successfully in large enterprises operating in the transport sector to change the mode of providing services from traditional to digital and create digital platforms to connect multimodal transportation services, building logistics supply chains owned by Vietnamese enterprises.
The transition from traditional to digital is certainly not simple, how will the ministry implement it?
Digital transformation in MoT is not a stand-alone programme. It is related to the tasks of IT application, e-Government development or the legal document development programme that is being implemented.
The programme includes: cognitive transformation; institutional construction; digital infrastructure development; digital data; digital platform; network safety and security and international cooperation, research, development and innovation in the digital environment.
How is the elimination of cash in transactions and logistics supply chain development implemented by the ministry?
The Ministry of Transport aims to eliminate cash in the operation of the digital economy by applying and promoting electronic payments and inter-payments of transportation services.
Electronic payments will be used for all transport-related activities.
Currently, non-stop electronic fee collection is being implemented. The purchase of bus, train and air tickets will also be linked with other services and strengthen connectivity in multimodal transport.
With the development of the logistics supply chain, the agency will promote the development of digital platforms connecting owners of goods, transporters and customers to develop into a one-stop system that allows product owners to find good means of transport and proper warehouses, as well as assisting with packaging and registration and completing related administrative documents.
In addition, MoT will also provide open data about traffic such as maps, metrics, statistics to promote start-ups creating data-based services that bring benefits to society such as reducing traffic congestion and saving travel costs.
In your opinion, what is the decisive factor for the successful digital transformation in the Ministry of Transport?
The biggest challenge to implementing the digital transformation programme of the transport sector is the awareness of managers in the industry.
This means that they should be known that digital technology must be applied in everyday tasks and drastically adopt new business models in order to promote growth.
In addition, the business community must also actively participate in building a database on the basis of the framework design of MoT.
Funding for the implementation of digital transformation plans is not adequate with the existing opportunities. We need to raise capital from many other sources.
Data must be shared among all regulatory agencies and allowed to be exploited by society according to regulations, ensuring legality and respecting privacy.
How will people and businesses benefit from the digital transformation of MoT?
People and businesses can access information of the transportation industry quickly, accurately and promptly, anytime, anywhere.
It also helps people and businesses to carry out administrative procedures more conveniently and easily, and saves time and costs. At the same time, the receiving and handling of complaints and petitions of people is quicker.
In addition, the use of MoT’s digital data will help people and businesses in developing new business models and developing the digital economy. VNS
Social media – a revolution to be feared
“The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance,” Steffen Seibert, spokesperson for Angela Merkel, said at a press conference on Monday, adding that Merkel had considered Trump’s Twitter ban “problematic”.
The German Chancellor is far from being the only person who has raised the alarm on the US President’s suspension from the social media platform. Other prominent political figures, ranging from Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to France’s economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, have expressed their concerns regarding the ban. I firmly stand with their concerns, and if you use social media, then you should too.
President Trump’s account, with more than 88 million followers, has been locked by Twitter. Photo: Reuters
Take Germany for example. Despite hailing free speech as one of its bastions of freedom, Germany has remained relatively strict on which type of content is allowed to exist on social media platforms used by its citizens, owing to its history. If German public authorities detect provocative behavior on social media, such as hate speech or references to Nazism, social media companies are required to remove such content from their platforms, and face a fine of over $60 million for failing to comply. However, Seibert said in the same press conference that the general behavior of social media companies, including their ability to restrict and censor content on their platforms, is “under the legal framework decided by legislators, not by those who run the company”.
Whether or not one agrees about President Trump’s conduct on social media, the fact that Twitter, Facebook and other platforms were able to decide on their own to strip away the US President’s main channel of communication by either restricting (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram) or outright banning his presence (Twitter) is something that not only Americans but also most governments and everyone around the world who uses social media should worry about.
Despite having been in our social lives for less than two decades (Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006), social media platforms have rapidly transformed into a global phenomenon where they now serve as the primary medium of communication for billions of people. Once relatively harmless “public squares” where users can easily interact with one another, social media networks have grown into formidable platforms, giving their creators unprecedented supranational power – not just by gathering personal information and collecting trends and being able to sell this information for billions of dollars, but also by dominating, if not directly influencing, social trends through the power of advertisements and information selection. In many cases, this has become a significant matter in national politics for many countries.
When Twitter first labelled Trump’s false claims about election fraud with a warning for the first time on May 26, ,2020, this was not the first time that Twitter executives publicly expressed their views through political interference. The social media platform, as well as Facebook, has been used by various political groups to rally the public and spread its messages, from the Austrian student protests and the Gaza disputes in 2009 to G20 protests in Toronto and the Arab Spring in 2011. Here, however, the attitude displayed by Twitter with these examples is nowhere similar to what transpired with Trump recently, which resembled more of the 2019-2020 protests in Hong Kong – where the platform swiftly removed over 1,000 accounts perceived as being associated with Mainland China – or in June 2020 in Turkey – where over 7,000 accounts believed to be managed by Turkish authorities as a way to facilitate support for President Recep Erdogan were taken down. I will not argue whether these examples are right or wrong, but they do provide a sound comparison.
But perhaps, what happened in America may be the clearest example of how regulators on social media platforms can significantly interfere in politics. Facebook and Twitter executives are known to be pro-Democrat, which was shown after the New York Post published a report on Hunter Biden last October. The same executives at Facebook and Twitter ordered their platforms to suppress information on the report. Facebook deliberately slowed down the spread of information on its platform, while Twitter blocked users from being able to share the report, citing “this article contains stolen information”. Several weeks later, users could again share the New York Post article with no restrictions after Twitter and Facebook executives were ordered to appear at a hearing in the US Senate, which was requested by a number of Republicans. It may have been too late, however, as tens of millions of Americans had already cast their ballots, and the “October surprise” of the Republicans failed to reach many voters. Many conservative politicians and pundits have accused such social media regulators as “interfering in the election”, but it’s likely we will never know who is right here.
The climax of the engagement was probably when all mainstream social media networks “joined forces” to shut down Trump’s accounts after the Capitol riots, which first alarmed the Mexican president before becoming a matter of concern for the German chancellor, who definitely won’t be the last person to view the behavior of social media executives and Big Tech as problematic. Many may perceive that we cannot continue allowing social media networks to act as self-proclaimed courts for deciding what information is allowed on their platforms, but that there needs to be firm regulations that place these companies within the legal frameworks of where they operate.
If you have ever been interested in or have read the agreements set out by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to which you had to agree in order to use their services, you may have noticed a big problem – the rules are not based on, or bound by, the laws of any particular country. Any agreement, especially those that may have legal status such as here, needs to be assessed within the specific framework of the legal system governing those agreements. In the case of these terms of services made by social media networks, there is no such system. No such provisions are offered to the users. This means that all behavior, rights and obligations of users on social media will be reviewed and adjudicated by those who run these platforms. It is difficult to imagine the existence of such a social contract, but they exist for every one of the billions of people who use these platforms. Civil society is similar in a civilized society, where one party is both a signatory and a judge of right and wrong in an engagement.
And, of course, therefore, it is almost impossible for users to take any sort of meaningful legal action towards these companies, especially for users outside the United States, where all user complaints are addressed either through automated computer systems or by those in Silicon Valley. Most public authorities in countries where these networks are used also hardly have any viable tool to hold these companies liable if the interests of their citizens are violated — for example, when their accounts are hacked into or stolen.
On the other hand, many still think that social media networks do possess the rights to filter information, as they provide their services to users for free. This possibly comes from the fact that, to attract users, social networks hardly force users to submit any monetary fees. However, they collect your personal information, your habits, even your friends, and use that information to make a profit. And so, perhaps, to say that these companies provide an entirely free service to users is rather incorrect. Even in that case, they should always have certain obligations to users, governed by the laws of each country.
It is also not advisable to continue associating the idea of “statelessness” to Big Tech and social network platforms, for it is these same companies that apply their idea of “state-boundedness” very well when faced with tax issues in the United States, where they use the nationality of their subsidiaries in Ireland, the Netherlands or Singapore to fix their issues. Social network companies only reject the idea of being bound to particular states if it otherwise forces them to be obliged to users, to citizens of particular countries.
With Silicon Valley social media executives being directly involved in American politics with their personal political views, they have the power to interfere, and have successfully interfered, with elections and the flow of information as we have seen this past year in the United States, as well as in many other countries. It may be time to put forward the question on the necessity to build comprehensive legal frameworks that will prevent these social media companies from acting outside, standing above the law.
Pham Quang Vinh
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