This is a picture of me being interviewed live on the internet by Tuan Anh Nguyen, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Vietnamnet, an online news, information, and entertainment company. They also have an English site. Tuan is responsible for bringing the internet to Vietnam in 1995 when he started an "unofficial" internet service - a full two years before the internet was declared legal by the Vietnamese government. After creating this fait accompli he went on to found VASC Software and Media Company, Vietnamnet's state-owned parent company which is also an internet service provider, software company, etc. Interestingly, he says that Vietnamnet doesn't make money from its PC-based web services. They make most of their money from wireless mobile applications and information services - ring tones, screensavers, information on demand, sports scores and news updates. Vietnamnet has also expanded into cable TV.
Tuan invited me to speak to his staff (average age 29) about my experiences working in Asia as a CNN correspondent, why I left CNN, and my current work on participatory media and weblogs, including the Global Voices project. Most people here haven't heard of blogs. People's mouths were hanging open when I showed them how easy it is for anybody to create a blog for free on services like blogger or blogsome.
Given that Vietnam isn't covered much by the Western media these days, Tuan hopes that Vietnamese bloggers writing in English will be able to help outsiders understand Vietnam better. Tuan is also thinking about starting a Vietnamese language blog-hosting service. He sees blogs as the next step in Vietnam's participatory media evolution. As I wrote yesterday, Vietnamnet and some other online news sites in this country already have online forums and publish articles written by readers. The next step could be the development of blogging communities attached to news sites, enabling the professional reporters to get a better idea their audience's interests, passions and opinions by reading their blogs.
Given the political situation here, there are lots of un-touchable subjects that we can assume will remain un-touchable. But even a controlled blogosphere would do much to increase public participation in media, and would likely boost responsiveness of professional media to the interests and needs of their audiences. That would certainly be a good thing.
It will be very interesting to see how this all develops.