Google searches for “cryptocurrency” increased sharply in recent years as Vietnamese sought investment channels, especially during the pandemic with social distancing measures in place, which forced people to stay home.

A recent report of Google showed that the total number of searches via the search engine in Vietnam rose by 37 per cent from 2021 against 2019. Searches for financial investment-related keywords in general and “cryptocurrency” in particular were among the keywords that saw the highest increases over the same period.

The trend of searching for “cryptocurrency” emerged at the end of 2020 and reached its peak in May 2021, with the number of searches for “tien dien tu” (cryptocurrency) jumping by 115 per cent in 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic period.

In May 2021, the number of searches for “cryptocurrency” was around four times higher than in mid-2019. Although there was a decline after that, the keyword remained significantly higher than in the pre-pandemic period.

The southern province of Tien Giang had the highest number of Google searches for “cryptocurrency”, nearly doubling Quang Ninh, the northern province which came second.

Other provinces in the top five were Ninh Binh, Dac Nong and Dak Lak while major cities including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and Hai Phong were all in the top 20.

Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Dak Nong and Gia Lai were localities with the highest number of searches for the keyword “bitcoin”.

Searches for “bitcoin” saw an increase by 38 per cent and peaked in May 2021.

The report showed that Vietnamese had more search interest in “bitcoin” than “cryptocurrency”.

During the pandemic, Vietnamese were more interested in investing, especially the rural population, according to the report.

Search interest in “chung khoan” (stocks) also grew by over 106 per cent.

A report of Chainalysis in 2021 showed that Vietnam ranked first in the Global Crypto Adoption Index.

Chainalysis quoted Binh Nguyen, the RMIT Fintech-Crypto Hub coordinator, saying that many in the country were using cryptocurrency to preserve their savings for the long term or protect against inflation, noting that there was relatively low cryptocurrency adoption in poor and remote areas.

“Young people here don’t have many options for investing. We don’t have a well-developed financial market for ETFs [exchange-traded fund], options, or futures and the stock brokerage penetration rate is lower than five per cent in Vietnam,” said Binh. “If you have $5,000 to invest, there aren’t many other places to put it.”

Binh expressed hope that with clearer regulatory direction from the government, Vietnam’s cryptocurrency market could mature.

In June 2021, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh approved the e-Government development strategy toward a digital government in 2021-2025. The State Bank of Vietnam was in charge of studying the pilot implementation of blockchain-based electronic currencies in 2021-2023.

The Ministry of Finance in April 2020 set up a group to study and raise recommendations about management policies for digital assets and digital currencies.

Investing in cryptocurrencies has not been licensed in Vietnam and has not been recognised as a legal means of payment in the country.