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Law on digital administration in Vietnam: Current status and solutions

Dr. DUONG THI TUOI
Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

(PTOJ) - The Fourth Industrial Revolution has promoted the strong development of state administration in Vietnam. Accordingly, the application of advances in information and communication technology to the operation of the state administration is an urgent requirement to build a digital administration. This article clarifies the current legal status of digital administration in Vietnam, thereby proposing solutions to improve the law in this field in the coming time.
 

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh chaired the 5th meeting of the National Commitee on Digital Transformation and the Government's 06 Project implementation working group held on February 25 - Photo: VGP

In recent years, the application of information technology in internal activities and exchanges between state administrative agencies through such forms as electronic documentation, data sharing, and the national database, as well as exchanges between state agencies, people and businesses through the electronic one-stop-shop system and online public services have been promoted.

The increasingly improved provision of online public services has contributed to ensuring the transparency and accountability of state administrative management entities in the process of administrative operation. The timely introduction of Decree No. 45/2020/ND-CP dated April 8, 2020, of the Government on the implementation of administrative procedures in the electronic environment has facilitated the development of online public services, especially during the time when some provinces and cities implement social distancing (prevention and control of the Covid-19 pandemic).

1. Legal status of digital administration in Vietnam

In recent years, under the leadership of the Party and the management of the State, the application of digital technology to state management activities in social life has been increasingly developed, marked by many remarkable achievements. The 13th National Party Congress has determined that one of the solutions is to “build a state administration in service of the people, democracy, rule of law, professionalism, modernity, cleanliness, strength, openness and transparency”(1), which is “promoting the application of information technology in the operations of state agencies, building and implementing e-government, towards the digital government”(2). Building a digital government, in which institutions and shared digital infrastructure are the basic foundations for creating digital solutions for the Government, businesses, and people. Thereby, taking advantage of digital benefits based on growth, jobs, and services, contributing to promoting socio-economic development, serving government, and better satisfying people’s aspirations.

Therefore, it can be understood that the law on digital administration is a collection of legal norms promulgated by competent state agencies in accordance with the order and procedures prescribed by law to regulate social relations arising in state administrative management activities through the application of information technology and digital technology platforms, in order to ensure the construction of a state administration serving the people, democracy, rule of law, professionalism, modernity, cleanliness, strength, publicity and transparency.

In the period of 2011-2020, the work of building and perfecting the laws in order to institutionalize the Party’s views and policies on the application of information technology and digital technology platforms in state administrative agencies have achieved certain results. Specifically:

Firstly, in terms of construction, the Government has promulgated policies and laws on information technology application development in state administrative management activities, building an e-Government architectural framework and the National Public Service Portal has been gradually completed. These include laws and sub-law documents, such as: Law on Information Technology 2006 (amended and supplemented in 2017); Law on Electronic Transactions 2005; Law on Cyberinformation Security 2015; Law on Cyber security 2018; Law on Archives 2011; etc. The Government has implemented infrastructure projects and programs and applied technology to management, such as: Resolution No. 36a/NQ-CP dated October 14, 2015 of the Government on e-Government; Decision No. 1819/QD-TV dated October 26, 2015 of the Prime Minister approving the national program on the application of information technology in the activities of state agencies in the period of 2016 - 2020; Decision No. 877/QD-TTg dated July 18, 2018 of the Prime Minister on promulgating the list of level-3 and level-4 online public services for ministries, branches, and localities to implement in the 2018-2019 period; Decision No. 274/QD-TTg dated March 12, 2019 of the Prime Minister on approving the National Public Service Portal Project; and so on.

Secondly, the provisions of the law on technical infrastructure for information technology application in ministries, branches, and localities are increasingly improving. On September 5, 2019, the Government issued Decree No. 73/2019/ND-CP on regulations on investment management in the application of information technology using the state budget capital, thereby removing many obstacles, facilitating the implementation of investment in information technology projects, the processes and procedures are reduced by about 30%; contributing to the development of information technology application in the activities of ministries, branches, and localities.

Besides the results achieved, there are some limitations:

Firstly, Decree No. 64/2007/ND-CP dated April 10, 2007, of the Government on the application of information technology in activities of state agencies is no longer suitable with the reality of information technology development and has not yet ensured the consistency and synchronization with the newly issued relevant legal documents. For example, the current regulations on information disclosure and transparency in the network environment, and regulations on the protection of personal information are referred to the provisions of the Law on Information Technology 2006. However, up to now, when the Law on Access to Information 2016 and the Law on Cyberinformation Security in 2015 have come into effect, the provisions of the Law on Information Technology 2006 are no longer relevant.

Regulations on network information security are not only specified in the Law on Cyber Security, and regulations on network security are not only provided in the Law on Cyber Security but also in the Law on Electronic Transactions. Accordingly, when these two laws take effect with many specific regulations on network information safety and network security for electronic transactions, then the provisions on security, safety, protection, and confidentiality in the Law on Electronic Transactions are no longer valid for practical application. Therefore, it is necessary to research, review and amend the Law on Electronic Transactions to ensure consistency and synchronization with other relevant laws.

Secondly, a number of legal provisions on information technology application in internal transactions of state administrative agencies; Transactions between state administrative agencies lack uniformity, synchronization, and comprehensiveness. An example to be taken, in the Prime Minister’s Decision No. 28/2018/QD-TTg dated July 12, 2018 on sending and receiving electronic documents between agencies in the state administrative system, there are regulations on ministries, branches, and localities to connect and link the document management and administration system with the national document interoperability axis, ensuring the connection, communication, sending and receiving of electronic documents are completed before June 30, 2019, and at the same time, each agency has only one digital certificate. In fact, at many agencies, there are more than two officers in charge of clerical work, so it is necessary to add a regulation that allows each agency to register two digital certificates (incoming and outgoing units).

In addition, the regulations on electronic archiving in the Law on Archives and Decree No. 01/2013/ND-CP dated January 3, 2013, of the Government detailing the implementation of a number of articles of the Law on Archives regulating the management of electronic archives have not yet created an adequate legal basis for electronic document management to ensure proactive adaptation to the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the spirit of Resolution No. 52 NQ/TW of the Politburo.

On the other hand, the management of electronic documents involves issues related to specialized operations and various fields and sectors, so it is necessary to have regulations issued by specialized management agencies.

In addition, to ensure consistency and synchronization between the provisions of Decree No. 47/2020/ND-CP dated  April 9, 2020 of the Government on management, connection, and sharing of digital data of state agencies and Decision No. 458/QD-TTg dated  April 3, 2020 of the Prime Minister on approval of the Project “Archiving electronic document by State agencies in the period of 2020-2025”, the Law on Archives should be amended soon and supplemented with regulations on data management of electronic archives.

Thirdly, there are limitations to the regulations of the law on providing online public services to citizens and businesses; there is a lack of regulations on electronic signatures and electronic signature authentication. An example to be taken is Article 22 of the Law on Electronic Transactions which stipulates conditions to ensure the security of electronic signatures, but the requirements for integrity and authentication are not clear, leading to many difficulties in the implementation process. There is currently a lack of regulations on recognizing the legal value of electronic signatures according to the level to suit each type of transaction.

In addition, which are not user-friendly and do not focus on citizens and businesses. Therefore, the application of a unified technology platform in implementing online public services is not guaranteed.

Fourthly, there is no regulation on the application of the Regulatory Sandbox in state administrative activities. The experimental management mechanism is one of many approaches for management tools for industries and fields in social life so as to ensure harmonization of state management objectives and promote the development of safe and effective new products and services. Accordingly, the development of a testing framework in state administrative management activities is applied on the basis of information technology, allowing some agencies, units, and enterprises to experiment with new technologies and (business) management models in a practical environment but with a defined scope and time, under the supervision of regulatory authorities.

The reason is that there is still a situation in which the leaders of some agencies have not paid enough attention, guided, or promoted the application of information technology in performing their functions and tasks and have not pioneered and modeled the use of specialized software and digital signatures in the network environment. Some units have not actively and actively exploited and used databases in the network environment; some cadres and civil servants are slow to change their working style and have not yet applied information technology to their work. The financial resources for e-Government implementation are still limited; Communication on the development of e-Government has not been focused on. On the other hand, the breakthrough development of science and technology, especially the development of artificial intelligence (AI), big data, biometrics, blockchain, etc. has created favorable conditions for the application and development of extensive electronic transactions, so there have been new problems that have not been regulated by the Law on Electronic Transactions, the Law on Information Technology, or other relevant laws.

Some important institutions have not been established to create a legal corridor for the implementation of e-government. The national database which is the foundation for e-Government development has not been implemented, or the completion level is still slow; The solution to connect and share data is slow to be implemented and has not been paid due attention to by ministries and sectors.

2. Solutions to improve the law on digital administration in Vietnam

Firstly, it is necessary to research and amend, supplement legal regulations on storage (amend, supplement the Law on Archives in 2011), supplement regulations on archiving of electronic documents, ensuring compliance with the provisions of the law on network security (in Article 10 of the Law on Cyber Security 2018), such as: the concept of electronic archives; forms and methods of ensuring the authenticity of electronic archives; principles of handing over electronic documents to archives; requirements for information preservation of electronic archives; requirements for the preservation of electronic archives; methods, order, and procedures for exploiting and using electronic archives, and so on.

Supplement regulations on the digitization of documents at agency archives, historical archives; regulations on centralized and unified management of data and electronic archives, meeting management requirements, connection, and sharing of digital data of state agencies. This is also an important issue for situations in which there are no regulations on sharing and connecting information between historical repositories, and no regulations allowing the establishment of archives to integrate, share, and insure archival data.

Secondly, it is necessary to research and supplement the legal provisions on digital signatures, electronic signatures, identification, and electronic authentication to ensure the legal validity of electronic transactions. The Law on Electronic Transactions (amended) should clearly define and distinguish the concepts of data messages, secure data messages, electronic signatures, and secure electronic signatures. At the same time, it is necessary to clearly specify the conditions and criteria for determining that a digital signature is secure, and a data message is secure; additional regulations for trusted services and trusted service providers (issuance of time stamp, electronic seals, entrusted data delivery, website authentication, etc.).

Research shall be done on amendments and supplements to regulations on electronic transactions of state agencies, especially the regulations on security, safety, protection, and confidentiality in electronic transactions in line with the reality of development, creating a solid legal foundation for electronic transactions of state agencies. It is necessary to review, update, amend, and supplement regulations on security, safety, protection as well as confidentiality in electronic transactions to ensure synchronization and consistency with the provisions of the Law on Cyberinformation Security and the Law on Cyber Security.

Thirdly, it is necessary to research and develop the Law on Digital Government and apply the regulatory sandbox mechanism in state administrative management activities. The document of the 13th National Party Congress has determined “promoting research, transferring, and applying scientific and technological advances, innovation, especially the achievements of the Fourth Tndustrial Revolution.”. The e-Government development strategy towards a digital government phase for 2021-2025 with a vision to 2030 has identified the task of completing the legal framework and ensuring a regulatory environment that allows experimentation, acceptance of newness, and acceptance of change. Establishing a space for digital services and formulate a legal framework to allow testing of digital services that are not yet regulated by law. To implement the above-mentioned policies, it is necessary to research and apply the “Regulatory Sandbox” testing mechanism.

In addition, the research and development of the Law on Digital Government will create an overall legal framework for the application of information technology and digital technology platforms to create a favorable environment for building a digital government in line with the Party’s direction. Accordingly, it is to draft a new, updated, and unified set of regulations with current legal regulations in order to create the best conditions for the development of digital technology platforms into state management activities and state administrative management.

The Project of the Law on Digital Government is being developed, including regulations on principles and responsibilities of state agencies in the operation of the Government (operating the digital administration), such as: regulations on building digital infrastructure, network infrastructure, cloud computing platforms, internet of things infrastructure; regulations on the development of digital data, such as: such as national digital data and digital data of ministries, branches, and localities; on connection and sharing of digital data, such as: principles of connection, data sharing; connection models, data sharing; on identification and authentication in Digital Government, such as: forms of identification and authentication, identity provision, electronic authentication; on ensuring network privacy and security, such as: principles of ensuring network safety and security; responsibilities of competent state agencies in detecting, solving and overcoming network safety and security incidents; on building the digital government architectural framework (the overall architectural framework of the national, ministerial-level digital government; the provincial digital government architecture); on investment and development of digital government, such as: project investment budget, intellectual property rights to digital solutions and databases; on the activities of ministries, branches and localities in the digital environment in order to regulate internal relations among ministries, branches, localities, thereby changing the thinking of performing official duties, innovating the working process in the digital environment, and providing services on the basis of digital technology and digital data.

The developed and approved draft Digital Government Law will directly amend and supplement a number of provisions in the Law on Electronic Transactions, the Law on Information Technology, the Law on Cyber Security, in accordance with the provisions of the Law on Promulgation of Legal Documents in 2015 (amended and supplemented in 2020) in the direction of one law amending many laws, in order to ensure the consistency, synchronization, and comprehensiveness of the legal system.

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Received: June 6, 2022; Revised: February 15, 2022; Approved for publication: February 21, 2023.

Endnotes:

(1), (2) CPV: Documents of the 13th National Party Congress, vol.I, Truth National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, p.176, 132.

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