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New $5 million annual fund to boost digital startups

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Mr Hun Sen speaks at the 2019 Cambodia Outlook Conference yesterday. KT/Khem Sovannara

In a bid to ease the transition into a digital economy, the government will create a $5-million annual fund to strengthen the tech startup scene in the country, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday.

The premier announced the fund during the opening of the 2019 Cambodia Outlook Conference, held at Phnom Penh’s Great Duke Hotel under the theme “Digital transformation toward Industry 4.0.”

“An entrepreneurship fund will be established with $5 million dollars a year to support startups in terms of financing, technical expertise, marketing, production, and training,” he said.

During his speech, Mr Hun Sen pointed out that the country is in the midst of a dramatic economic transformation, moving from an agriculture-based economy to one reliant on manufacturing and services. To make the most out of this transformation, more needs to be done to boost economic growth in the short and in the long term, he said.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an important catalyst for socio-economic development in Cambodia.

“I hope that this conference will serve as a platform to discuss opportunities, challenges and concrete action that can be taken to ensure that Industry 4.0 contributes to the socio-economic development of the country,” added Mr Hun Sen.

Mr Hun Sen said that earlier this year he instructed the Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC) to establish a working group that will focus on formulating policy and building the framework needed to successfully transition into a digital economy.

The group will focus on three areas: Building infrastructure and developing e-payment systems and the logistics network; developing the digital ecosystem; and promoting the digitalisation of the government while strengthening entrepreneurship, improving digital literacy, and developing open data.

Aun Pornmoniroth, the Minister of Economy and Finance, earlier this month said at a workshop that digital technologies will give Cambodia the opportunity to leapfrog traditional stages of development. He said it will take the country at least 10 years to complete the transition into a full-fledged digital economy.

“In the context of globalisation and global integration, Cambodia certainly cannot avoid the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and that requires the government to focus on seizing opportunities as well as managing risks,” he said.

Mr Pornmoniroth said the country’s digital capabilities are still at a nascent stage. “Cambodia may need to spend the next five years building the pillars of a digital economy, and will probably spend another five to ten years growing that digital economy and aiming for a technology-driven market,” he said.

“In this regard, it is worth clarifying that Cambodia has no intention to create a Silicon Valley or a unicorn startup company. Our vision is to create a robust digital environment that allows both small and large firms in the country to connect to global value chains,” he added.

According to Telecom Regulator of Cambodia, in 2018 Cambodia had 19.5 million mobile subscribers from six different operators. Of these, 13.6 million used the Internet from their mobile phones and about 7 million had Facebook accounts.

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