Developer Portraits: Southeast Asia

In this video series we present portraits of Web developers from around the world, starting our journey in Southeast Asia.

Our first three videos focus on Jecelyn Yeen from Malaysia, Trung Đinh Quang in Vietnam, and Warat Wongmaneekit in Thailand — all countries with thriving tech communities, vibrant startup scenes, and large numbers of users coming online for the first time.

Jecelyn Yeen
Trung Đinh Quang
Warat Wongmaneekit

A few facts:

  • Vietnam (population 91 million), Thailand (68 million) and Malaysia (31 million) have over 100 million internet users online, and that number is rising fast.
  • Metropolitan areas in all three countries have widespread reliable 4G. Cellular rather than wifi connections predominate. Outside urban areas, flakey connectivity and 2G are far more common.
  • Internet usage in the region is predominantly from mobile phones, but all three countries have a significant proportion of users on desktop devices.
  • Vietnam and Thailand both have large rural populations (around 66% and 50% respectively) many of whom have poor access to connectivity. In Vietnam, for example only 54.9% of people have access to 4Mbps+ broadband, as the OpenSignal cell coverage map shows below.

Southeast Asia is unique in having leapfrogged other countries in recent years to become the world’s first truly ‘mobile first’ region. Thailand, for example, has over 150 mobile subscriptions for every 100 people, with connectivity more widespread than China, the US or India. Vietnam and Thailand also rank among the ten biggest (and fastest growing) markets worldwide for total viewing time on YouTube. Fast growth also means there are still huge opportunities for user-generated content on the Web in Southeast Asia.

Map from opensignal.com, showing 2G and 3G coverage

Filmmaker Nilesh Bell-Gorsia describes how the videos were made:

Over 12 days we visited three countries on a whistle stop tour. I was accompanied by a talented crew in Co-Producer Jamie Baughman, Director of Photography Andy Hoffman and Tasha Van Zandt with Assistant Camera Sebastian Zeck and Sound Recordist Bryan Gordon. Together we forged through fish markets at 3am, filmed out the back of moving tuk tuks and ran the length of football pitches to capture that perfect moment!
Jecelyn Yeen in Kuala Lumpur
We traveled as light as physically possible so we were able to be pretty nimble on location. Armed with a pair of Canon C300 Mark II cameras, at 4k UHD 3840x2160, shooting on Canon L-Series Lenses, 35mm, 85mm, 16–35mm, 24–70, 70–200mm, with a couple of Sachtler FSB 6 tripods with carbon fiber sticks. To light the interviews we made use of two Wescott 1x1' daylight balanced flex lights. Recording audio on a Sound Devices 702T Recorder with a Sennheiser MK-416 Shotgun microphone, Sennheiser ew 100 G3 Wireless and a Countryman B6 Omnidirectional Lavalier.
Trung Đinh Quang after football
We sampled life in three different cities and were graciously invited into the lives of three brilliant Web developers. We had the privilege of being welcomed into the homes of each with the theme of ‘family’ imbuing our trip. Each short film explores their unique journeys as well as touching upon themes that conjoin them all.
In Malaysia, we learned about the importance of Jecelyn’s relationship with her father during her career, as well as her role in helping to build developer communities for women, alongside creating tutorials and code samples.
Fish market in Kuala Lumpur
In Vietnam, Trung left his hometown for Ho Chi Minh City to become a Web developer. We documented the life he left behind and shared a beautiful home-cooked meal with Trung and his family. We were also taught how to fish by local fisherman in the rural Bin Phuoc!
Filming a football match in Ho Chi Minh City
In the bustle of metropolitan Thailand, we explored the turning point in Warat’s working life and the changes in his own technological perspective, along with his relationship with his mother as she grapples with new technology.
Filming a tuk tuk from a tuk tuk: Warat Wongmaneekit in Bangkok
As we witnessed these strong familial relationships, it was evident each developer was also growing a respective developer family of their own.

In the future we hope to speak to developers in other regions where the greatest number of people are coming online for the first time. The Web’s technological and cultural centre of gravity is moving steadily away from the US and Western Europe, and we want to find out what this means for developers and users.

Find out more