Last Friday afternoon, the Global Institute For Tomorrow (Gift) released findings from an intensive week-long study into the possibilities of sustainable development in Cambodia.
A delegation of young professionals, selected for Gift’s Asean Young Leaders Programme presented their vision of an ecological civilisation.
Entitled ‘How technological and social innovations can drive Cambodia’s shared prosperity in the next 10 years,’ the presentation covered five areas that the delegation identified as holding immense potential for further development within the Kingdom – development that they insist needs to focus on sustainability.
With this in mind, the team of young leaders shone a light on possible paths for Cambodia to walk with regards to livelihoods, education and skills development, agriculture and rural revitalisation, public health, culture and wellbeing, and, crucially, environment and resources.
“We do not pretend to be experts on Cambodia,” CEO of GIFT and Malaysian philanthropist Chandran Nair explained, citing that the study had been written in just three days given the team’s relatively brief exposure to the Kingdom.
“The full report, which is some 100 pages, will be released in three weeks, so it’s not the same level of detail as you’d expect to see in a one-year study, but we hope it will contain some useful ideas for consideration of the Cambodian people and government,” he says.
Secretary of state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications Sok Puthyvuth gave an impassioned speech, stating that the ministry believes the programme will help Cambodia to seriously consider sustainability when choosing how to develop.
“This programme, I hope, will give us a sense of purpose as to why we modernise, why we digitise,” he explains, noting that the delegation of Gift’s young leaders put hard questions to key stakeholders, including numerous government ministries, NGOs and private sector representatives.
“Growth and development as usual will not do,” he said, before noting that previous industrial revolutions have all taken from nature and that he hopes that perhaps Industry 4.0 will finally allow Cambodia to give back to nature.
The holistic solutions that were presented by the team of young leaders included an open-source online education programme for skills development that aims to increase functional numeracy and literacy skills in the Kingdom, as well as producing 3,000 Cambodian scientists by 2040 through increased STEM subject development.
Other solutions included real-time information sharing via a national healthcare database, which the young leaders believe would strengthen the delivery of healthcare systems significantly. They also encouraged the development of a cultural digital platform to preserve and promote Cambodian cultural heritage.
One key aspect of the findings related to agricultural revitalisation, as the team highlighted agriculture made up 22 percent of GDP last year and through the creation of a national irrigation system, year-round farming would be possible. This, they claim, would also serve as a means of granting access to potable water and enhanced sanitation through provincial water treatment plants.
Conceding that there would be obstacles to the successful implementation of these recommendations, the team hopes to see a pilot programme of certain solutions to test the scalability of their ideas, although details on this are yet to be decided, particularly where, when and which solutions.