[Cambodia] Open Space #1: Youth Readiness for Digital Transformation

Published by AYF Secretariat on

The global pandemic Covid-19 has shifted many aspects of our life. One of the unprecedented changes is the speeding up of the fourth Individual Revolution because the pandemic forces us to rely more on digital infrastructure and technology. Such a case is no exception in Cambodia which undergoes a rapid digital transformation in key sectors such as banking, transportation, communication, commerce, and education, despite its title as the least developed country in ASEAN. In line with the adaptation, the government has also prepared a national strategy to transform Cambodia into a digital economy by 2023. 

In order to examine the readiness and concerns of Cambodia's youth in facing the rapid digital transformation, Open Space #2 was conducted via Zoom meeting on October 24, 2020. All 16 of the participants were very actively engaged in the forum and provided many meaningful insights about the topic. In the beginning, they discussed the contributing factors that boost Cambodia's digital shift. It is undeniable that the quarantine period has pushed the number of smartphone users in Cambodia as well as the usage of digital applications. Several participants proposed that the transformation has started before the pandemic began through globalization as many big enterprises have been developing digital technology such as cloud computing and digital infrastructure in many sectors such as education or business.

To make things better, one of the participants that work for an enterprise noted four digital transformation frameworks. The first two things relate to the human condition. Companies should empower employees and engage with the customer. The third framework is about operations that consist of supply chain management, finance, and business. And the last is transforming the business to fit today's demand. An example is the PassApp which changed the way most people in Cambodia order tuktuk (local public transportation).

One thing to note is that in digital transformation, communities in rural areas have distinguished challenges because of the poor digital infrastructure. Meanwhile, people in urban areas can adapt more quickly, especially youth. This is a challenge that must be answered by youth who are more familiar with the technology. This is shown in a survey that states that 100 percent of participants have internet access on a daily basis. Some of the participants also had three digital skills to support transformation. There are 31% participants who have career-related competencies, 23% participants got skill in managing information and data, and the same number in problem-solving skills by using digital technology.

The survey also stated that all participants experienced rapid digital transformation in Cambodia, from education (54%), transportation and logistics (23%), retail and trades (15%), and entertainment (8%). 

However, transformation can be carried out comprehensively in all sectors through increasing internet accessibility, as well as massive investment in research and development of the digital economy. The poll showed that three main challenges for communities when facing digital transformation is poor internet connection (38%), privacy and data security concern (15%), and language barrier (15%). Some groups that also faced the same challenge are the youth living in poverty, ethnic minority, and women. "I think the solution here is to increase the investment in research development to improve the quality and accessibility of the internet economy because if it hadn't been for Covid-19, people wouldn't have thought much about this," said Rotanak, one of the participants.


Here are some highlights from the session


“After quarantine ends, I think the rising number of smartphone users in Cambodia is also the main factor of digital transformation. If we compare it to before, we didn’t really use digital finance apps like ABA or Pipay. However,  now, especially in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, there are a lot of smartphone users and higher  IT literacy rates which causes the digitization of things like finance, and delivery.”



“In order to talk about digital transformation skills, we should learn about the frameworks. I’ll raise an example of big enterprises that have 4 frameworks, like the place I’m working at. First,  empowering employees, which is related to digital skills to implement for them to work faster.  Second, customer engagement is like ABA. For the ads to work, they have to work together with other companies. The third is operations which are about supply chain, finance, and  other factors in business.”



“Our society is not that modern. It is not modern enough for us to continue studying online permanently. Since (Covid-19) it is too sudden, not everybody is prepared for it. So, I think for youth like those from the 1990s to 2000s can adapt but for elders and teachers at public schools, they weren’t exposed to the technology so they could have difficulty with  the transformation.”



“Urban areas are easier to adapt to these changes; we have good data and the students have a lot of resources like owning their own devices and more available services.  But, in the countryside, there is a network issue even if you own a smartphone since some regions don’t have a good connection. It’s hard for them to keep up with the updates and  features that are offered on the internet.”

-Mai Muth



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