The tech startup VINADES only spends half the time on R&D and half the time with repeatedly applying for a license .
The MPI requested DauThau.info to stop scanning the data of the National Procurement Network on April 22, 2021 saying that VINADES’s access and scanning of bidding data on the system for private use in the past time is contrary to Decree 47/2020/ND-CP of the Government.
After that, 104 bidders submitted petitions to the MPI to seek for the ministry’s permission for the technology to access and read information automatically on the National Procurement Network, including DauThau.info software.
DauThau.info is a bidding ecosystem of Vietnam Open Source Development Joint Stock Company (VINADES), recognized by many digital transformation awards. This software aims to help contractors and investors search and hunt the government’s bidding information by analyzing data and limiting the bid rigging. In addition, this application does not depend on the Internet Explorer browser and Windows operating system at the National Procurement Network.
“Although the Government encourages technology initiative, our tech solution still faces enough difficulties. We always get disapproved any time we apply for the license for our website.” Mr. Nguyen The Hung, founder of VINADES shared.
Vietnam E-commerce And Digital Economy Agency says no
In 2018, the Hanoi Department of Information and Communications inspected VINADES and concluded that DauThau.info does not need an operating license. dauthau.info was confirmed not subject to the licensing by Hanoi Department of Information and Communications and the Authority of Broadcasting And Electronic Information.
Despite the confirmation, VINADES still took more than 2 years to inform its e-commerce website to the Department of E-commerce and Digital Economy (IDEA). The company has so far not been approved for a variety of reasons, asking for Internet Content Provider (ICP) license. In another VINADES’ effort, the IDEA again required approval from the Procurement Administration.
VINADES sent petitions to the Procurement Management Department, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), the Ministry of Information and Communications, the Department of Informatization and even the Government Office to request a license for bidding data because this is open data for Decree 47/2020/ND-CP. However, the Procurement Administration and MPI have yet to respond.
In April, IDEA again denied VINADES to access and scan data at the National Online Procurement Center because VINADES has not been approved by the center. This violated Clause 6, Article 5 and Clause 4, Article 3 of Decree No. 47/2020/ND-CP. In addition, the center concerned that dauthau.info may disrupt other access to the system.
“Bidding data must be made public, according to the Law on Bidding. That means people and businesses have free access. As far as I understand, whether the approach is manual or automated software, the permissions will not change. Then there is no reason to prevent and not license DauThau.info.”, Hung was surprised by IDEA’s decision.
Hanoi Department of Information and Communications fined and revoked dauthau.info’s domain name
Earlier this year, the inspector of the Hanoi Department of Information and Communications (DIC) suddenly issued a request to block the domain name, then record VINADES’s administrative violations. The DIC says “dauthau.info website has quoted news articles from new agencies, operating as a informational website without being licensed.”
Mr. Hung was surprised because dauthau.info had re-posted some articles on the Government Portal (chinhphu.vn). Previously, the Hanoi DIC informed that an ICP license was not required. Still the department’s inspector fined it. While VINADES voluntarily remedied the 50 million VND of the fine and removed all the infringing content, their the dauthau.info’s domain was revoked.
Startup calls for help
Decree 47/2020/ND-CP on management, connection and sharing of digital data from state agencies has been regulated as open data for businesses to access. But it is MPI’s decision whether the procurement data is open data or not.
Mr. Hung commented “I think that the IDEA does not approve us as an e-commerce website’s profile because there is no clear regulation on how to allow businesses to access the government’s public data.”
Frustrated by non-supportive decision made by the authority, Mr. Hung had thought about moving to other countries where policy prioritizes innovation to develop. He thought of selling his research to foreign investors. Only then, he can remove his anxiety because of penalties. A tech-guy like him feels breathless when seeking support.
Mr. Hung said that traditional business licenses are no longer compatible with the digital economy. Therefore, the Government should soon complete the legal framework related to open data and its use for both state agencies and society as a whole. Because this is the “key to the digital economy” as researched by the World Bank.
Hung has petitioned to the Private Business Development Research Board, under the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council for Administrative Procedure Reform. The board then proposed to the Prime Minister a sandbox to create a favorable condition for tech startups so that they could focus more on R&D.
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