Vietnam capital issues 95 iPad2s to lawmakers

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Ninety-five iPad2s have been given to the members of Hanoi's legislative body, which local authorities said was to save money and part of their preparations for an e-government project.

A report on Tuoi Tre Friday said the equipment was part of the city's project to apply information technology into the work of the city's People's Council.

Approved in March last year, the project was to buy 128 laptops for the council's deputies. But later in September, the city's authorities switched to the iPad2.

In an interview with Thanh Nien on Thursday, Bui Duc Hieu, chief of the Hanoi People's Council's Office, said the device will help end the practice of sending piles of documents to the deputies by post prior to its meetings. 

For every meeting, each deputy is supposed to receive more than ten kilograms of documents, which costs hundreds of millions dong to send all of them by post, he said, adding that usually they have to send the documents twice.

Meanwhile, each iPad cost less than VND20 million ($945), Hieu said, adding that it was also cheaper than a laptop which would cost them VND28 million ($1,300).

More importantly, the equipment is one of the steps they are taking to prepare for the e-government project, which has already been implemented at many provinces, he said.

In fact, National Assembly deputies have also been equipped with laptops, according to the official.

Asked if there are any regulations to keep deputies from using the device for entertainment activities, Hieu said: "Anyone who observes the hall of the council's meeting will see that almost no one can entertain themselves because the working speed there is very intense."

Moreover, before receiving their new iPads, the deputies attended a training session about how to use it and its purposes, he said.

"During their usage, what they use it for is their business. ["¦](But), we guarantee that everyone will have to focus on their work during the meetings," the official said.

Several deputies also voiced their support for the city's initiative when speaking to Thanh Nien on the sidelines of Hanoi's People's Council's fifth session which opened on July 10.

Nguyen Tung Lam, vice chairman of the Hanoi Union of Science and Technology Association, said he found it is easier to read the documents on an iPad.

"The device helps us search documents easily and we do not need to carry piles of documents with us anymore," he said.

Pham Van Cham, deputy from Dong Anh District, agreed, saying that the equipment is reasonable, because they can read documents anytime and anywhere. Not to mention that it allows them to look up information on the Internet easily, he added.

Asked about other purposes like playing games and watching films, most of the interviewed deputies claimed that they rarely have a need for those activities, stressing that they have mainly used it for work since they were given the devices.

However, a National Assembly deputy who wished to stay unnamed told Thanh Nien that authorities should have given deputies a laptop instead, because its features support their work better than the iPad.

He said Hanoi authorities should also provide lawmakers with computer skills training courses.

Speaking to Thanh Nien, Le Van Giap, director of SharePlus Corp, an information technology and communication company, also said that 80 percent of iPad functions are designed for entertainment, and just 20 percent for work.

So, the tablet's capacity could not be compared to that of the laptop when it comes to work, he said.

Meanwhile, Le Dang Doanh, a former senior economist at the Ministry of Planning and Investment, said the 95 iPad2s cost nearly VND1 billion ($47,200), while the economy is facing lots of difficulties, noting that hospitals and schools are overloaded.

Hanoi authorities need to clarify where within the budget the funds for the iPad came from and how the initiative is effective, the expert said. They also need to convince the public of why they switched to iPads as opposed to laptops per the original plan, he added.

"What I am concerned most is that whether deputies will use the iPads for work like checking emails and reading documents or playing games and surfing net to read news."

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