Government ministers, central bankers and the heads of leading financial institutions say the key to Cambodia’s economic recovery is the full digitalisation of the economy.
Chea Vandeth, Minister of Post and Telecommunications (MPTC) told participants in the Camtech Summit, being held virtually this week that progress in e-commerce has already been accelerated by the lockdowns and restrictions brought in to stop the spread of Covid-19.
“The pandemic has disrupted the way we live, do business and interact with one another. In a way, however, this disruption has emphasised the importance of digital technology in minimising the impact of the pandemic and allowed us to accelerate digital transformation and adapt ourselves to the digital economy as the new economic growth model,” he said.
“Taking into account the challenges and opportunities, the Royal Government of Cambodia has recently adopted the Policy Framework on Digital Economy and Society 2021-2035. With the long-term vision to build a vibrant digital economy and society, primary focus is on laying the foundations for promoting technological operations and transformations among major stakeholders, namely the government, citizens and businesses,” Vandeth said.
Priorities in the government’s draft digital policy include building Smart Cities, funding research and development and giving Cambodians the cyber skills they need, building Cambodia’s first data centre and establishing a national Cloud policy. Vandeth said the government needed to encourage digital adoption by setting a strong example.
“As part of our digital transformation objectives we plan to minimise the use of paper in our daily administrative processes starting January 1, 2022. To do so, our IT team has worked on 20 digitalisation projects that will contribute to a more effective and efficient work environment,” he said. “Our goal is to turn MPTC into a model ministry as we look to share our tech adoption experience and best practise with other government institutions. And to prepare ourselves for this digital transformation journey our ministry, issued through the Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology, has provided different planning programmes for our officials ranging from basic digital essential tools to specialised subjects so that they can become IT field experts and policymakers. On the telecom front MPTC has formed five task forces dedicated to promoting quality services and backbone networks across the country as well as another eight taskforces to strengthen the telecom and internet services in all towns. Our long term tactic is also to ensure network connectivity for schools and health centres at the commune level across the country,” Vandeth said.
Rapid Sun, Deputy Director General at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications explained the Draft Digital Policy 2021-2035, saying the first objective is to build digital infrastructure, then to add services, thirdly to focus on human capital and innovation and finally to work on building public-private partnerships. Sun said there is a lot of work to do to create a Smart Government.
“We are still in the first stage of digital government where all of the other ministries are moving online but their systems are in a silo. They are not connected, data is not interchanged and also there is no standard or provision of system development and security,” he said.
The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) has already taken the first steps in digitalisation and has transformed swiftly into setting the global agenda for central banks with its Bakong app.
Bakong streamlines and connects the array of online payments services offered by commercial banks in Cambodia, with a digital wallet allowing users to send and receive money, send cash home from Malaysia and use a standard QR code for payments.
NBC Deputy Governor Neav Chanthana said there are still important issues to address:
“Firstly, the limited awareness of digital literacy by individuals and businesses could be the main barrier in promoting usage and the fear that it may expose them to related risks. This emphasises the importance of digital literacy, which is another new area that all stakeholders need to take into consideration,” she said. “Secondly is the development of an appropriate regulatory framework to balance between innovation and stability. As fintech keeps evolving very fast, new risks, especially cybersecurity risks, have emerged and become complicated. Thus the regulations need to be more responsive to catch up with development. Thirdly, the need for expanding the scope of a national digital identity and supporting infrastructure in various sectors is also an important issue that should be addressed. Last but not least, enhancing the legal framework to address the issues related to cybersecurity and data privacy and protection is most critical,” Chanthana said.
The Camtech Summit runs throughout the week from four locations, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Battambang, focussing on how technology relates to tourism, agriculture, real estate and fintech start-ups.
This article was first published in Khmer Times. All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.