Cambodia is at risk of “getting left behind” if it doesn’t invest more in a digitally skilled workforce as local companies look to improve their business process and customer experience through “digital transformation”, according to a panel discussion on an industrywide survey.
Digital transformation is defined as the process of using digital technologies to create new or modify existing business processes, culture and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.
Data compiled under the “2020 CEO Digital Transformation survey” by Mekong Big Data and DataU, in partnership with the National Institute of Posts, Telecoms and ICT and Khmer Enterprises, found that lack of budgets, project overruns or delays and lack of skills are the major challenges for local businesses looking to embrace digital transformation.
Key priorities were outlined as process and cost efficiency through automation, driving strategy and change through insights and building a data-driven culture through data literacy. While making findings and data useful and putting them into action, storytelling with data and data collection quality/reliability were outlined as their biggest challenges regarding data and analytics.
During a panel discussion on the survey’s findings, Chief Digital Officer at Chip Mong Group Francois du Toit said, “If we [Cambodia] stop the journey of digital transformation we are going to get left behind and then it is going to be very difficult to catch up so we have to start now.”
“Cambodia needs to invest more in upskilling its local workforce to truly embrace digital transformation across the country.”
Managing Partner of Mekong Big Data and DataU Oojal Jhutti told Khmer Times that by focusing training on both hard and soft skills companies can create perpetual behavioural change, which helps mitigate the high costs of not executing digital transformation projects properly.
“For context, in the USA in 2018 alone over $1.3 trillion was spent on digital transformation projects, of which some 70 percent ($900 billion), was lost because of improper change management that failed to put people and process at the centre of the projects,” he said.
He added that when looking at global benchmarks such as Europe and the USA, and even more regionally in places such as Singapore and Thailand, it’s clear that when it comes to digital transformation and data literacy Cambodia has some catching up to do. “The great news, though, is the opportunities this creates to draw on global insights, best practices and case studies that create a path towards a better, more equipped and more adaptable Cambodian workforce. Like we saw with smartphone adoption in the Kingdom, Cambodians have shown their propensity to leapfrog over the traditionally slower adoption curves we see in the West, to embrace new technologies and workflows much more rapidly,” he added.
Digital transformation is considered a pillar of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) which refers to a new phase in the Industrial Revolution that focuses heavily on interconnectivity, automation, machine-learning, and real-time data.
The Cambodian government has placed 4IR at the heart of the fourth iteration of the Rectangular Strategy of growth, employment, equity and efficiency with the national medium-term development strategy and activities in this area already initiated across various ministries.
Both the government and developmental agencies have also stated that barriers for Cambodia adopting 4IR include a lack of awareness of digital technologies and their benefits, the perceived high costs of new technology, a reluctance to use it and then skill gaps caused by limited access to training and technical assistance.