Prime Minister Dung gives immediate approval to finance the development of young doctor's invention helping sight-impaired people.
After Dr. Nguyen Ba Hai’s three-minute presentation on his “smart glasses”, which help sight-impaired people get around, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung asked for more details and then decided to finance the million-dollar project manufacturing the glasses for all sight-impaired Vietnamese people.
The conversation between Dr. Hai, a lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Education, and PM Dung was the “hottest” topic at a meeting between the PM and young scientists hosted by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) on September 11.
The Prime Minister was excited hearing Dr. Hai talk about his “smart glasses” and asked the young scientist to elaborate upon his idea. The “smart glasses”, which Dr. Hai has intended to produce since he was a student but lacked the opportunity until he returned to Vietnam in 2010 after studying overseas, are programmed to recognize obstacles and vibrate to alert users so that they can find their way around.
The first version of the glasses weighed 2 kilograms and had a production cost of approximately VND20 million (nearly $1,000). After nine upgrades the “smart glasses” now weigh only 200 grams and have a production cost of VND2 million (less than $100). With quality as high as similar foreign products but with production costs lower by a dozen times, he’s received many orders for the glasses, even from overseas.
Vietnam currently has 1.2 million sight-impaired people, of which about 300,000 are legally blind. Dr. Hai previously turned down an offer to commercialize the “smart glasses” as he wished to donate his invention to the State so that it could help deliver the high-tech product to sight-impaired people at the lowest cost.
During Dr. Hai’s presentation at the meeting, PM Dung paid extremely close attention and asked: “How much does it cost and how long would it take to manufacture 300,000 glasses for legally blind people?” The young scientist confidently replied that, with economies of scale, it would cost from VND1.3 million to VND1.5 million ($57 to $67) to produce one pair of glasses, with the cost for hundreds of thousands of pairs running into the millions of dollars. He then proposed the government help sponsoring the glasses for sight-impaired people around the country facing difficult circumstances.
PM Dung agreed immediately and assigned MoST to meet Dr. Hai to discuss and develop the project so that most sight-impaired Vietnamese people will receive a pair of glasses within a year. “Just keep your mind on the work; all costs will be financed by the government,” the Prime Minister Dung told the young scientist.
“I was amazed by the Prime Minister’s quick and determined decision,” Dr. Hai said. It will not only help millions of Vietnamese people benefit from a new high-tech product but will also push young scientists to work harder and contribute to the country.