In 2013, the United Nations published a prediction that by 2030 two-thirds of the world’s middle classes would be in East Asia, with Vietnam among the top three countries for middle-class emergence. Despite this, there remains little but growing research about Vietnam’s middle classes. Among the issues that research to date has not addressed are the ways forms of digitisation are integrated into middle-class ways of living. There is a dearth of research about how middle classes use (1) digital communication, such as zalo and viber; (2) app-based services, such as Grab transport and food delivery apps; (3) biometric and other forms of data capture, such as fingerprint door keys; and (4) digital entertainment, such as streaming services. Using qualitative methods, this paper will contribute theoretically by analysing the digital divide in HCMC and investigating the attitudes, practices and experiences of HCMC’s middle classes. It will examine how middle classes use a range of technologies and determine issues of digital privacy and the digital divide in Vietnam. It will provide evidence to assess to what extent urban middle classes may lead change by influencing, modelling lifestyles and being trendsetters.
Catherine Earl, a social anthropologist, is Lecturer in Communication at RMIT Vietnam. Her research interests focus on the rise of middle classes in Ho Chi Minh City, gender and social change, and issues of urban sustainability.