Friday, August 01, 2008

Yahoo! expert focuses on connecting Viet Nam

Internet search giants such as Yahoo! and Google are accelerating their presence in Viet Nam, where the Internet search industry is still in its infancy. Viet Nam News reporter Phi Hung spoke with Luong Vinh Tuoc, Senior Vice President of Search Engineering and Interim Lead for Yahoo! Search Products, during his recent visit, about how Viet Nam can develop its search industry while promoting itself on the World Wide Web. Tuoc, an American of Vietnamese origin who has returned to Viet Nam after 41 years, said he really wanted to "Vietnamise" the Yahoo! search engine, not only in a business sense, but also to give back to his ancestors.

Can you tell us the purpose of your visit to Viet Nam ?

Globally speaking, I see Viet Nam as a potential market for Internet-related services. While the country’s population is at 85 million, the number of Internet users is only at 19.5 million. Thus, there is a lot of room to develop the Internet here.

During this visit, I wanted to make specific plans to optimise our search engine in the Vietnamese language. I have spoken with the Ministry of Science and Technology, specifically with Deputy Minister Nguyen Van Lang, about how to optimise the Vietnamese language in the Yahoo! search engine, and how to find materials for Vietnamese structure and annotation.

The next step will be to program our "robot" on how to read and understand the Vietnamese language.

Why do you think the development of search engines in Vietnamese has not had the same success as other languages?

In my experience, a small search service will be difficult to develop because of its limited resources. It will face many difficulties if the engine wants to develop on a larger scale. The resources I mention here are human and financial resources.

First off, building a search engine requires a large number of qualified scientists specialised in this field, and a small company will have a hard time coming up with sufficient people.

Second is the investment. A real search engine requires a huge investment in thousands of servers, which will again be difficult for a small company.

There are many young scientists in Viet Nam who know a lot about the Vietnamese language, a language that is difficult for foreign scientists to thoroughly understand. However, limited financial resources will prevent Vietnamese scientists from investing in the search engine infrastructure.

What will be the next generation of search engines?

At present, most search engines operate under the same mechanism: typing in keywords and then receiving the results relating to these key words.

But the next generation of search engines will be smarter. They will understand what the user really wants to know when typing in a key word.

Yahoo! has many other assets, such as Mail, Messenger and 360, not just a search engine. All of these programmes will become more intelligent.

What do you think about the use of the Internet with businesses in Viet Nam?

When I came to Viet Nam, the Tourism Administration of Viet Nam and the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) invited me to make a presentation to local small and medium-sized tourism firms in Vung Tau on how to use the Internet to advertise on the World Wide Web.

According to statistics from the General Statistics Office, two million foreign tourists came to Viet Nam in the first six months of this year. I told my staff to check the Yahoo! database to find out how many people searched for information relating to tours in Viet Nam.

The results showed there were six countries and territories with the most inquiries about Viet Nam tourism: Japan, Taiwan, mainland China, South Korea, the US and Thailand.

I then calculated the number of queries per week in each country and the results showed that the US was on top with 27,000 queries per week, which means 1.5 million queries per year. The most common keywords were "hotel Vungtau," "hotel Da Lat" and "the best tour in Viet Nam."

However, when I searched for "hotel Vungtau," I was unable to find any direct results. I could only find a few indirect hits from foreign websites. That means that hotels in Vung Tau had lost opportunities to advertise themselves to about 1.5 million queries from the US. — VNS