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New Tech Hub for Innovators

Safiya Charles / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
The city’s new technology driven co-working space will foster a growing community of tech-entrepreneurs. Thida Leiper, Impact Hub

A new tech-centered co-working space is challenging the country’s young leaders to find practical ways technology can be utilized to create a positive impact on the day-to-day lives of people.
 
TEKHUB, launched yesterday, in collaboration with social enterprise maven Impact Hub and nonprofit international development agency The Asia Foundation, which will host the co-working space at its headquarters in Boeung Keng Kang commune.
 
Through their partnership, the organizations seek to build a communal space where budding tech-entrepreneurs and aspiring innovators can hone their ideas utilizing a hands-on approach – prototyping and testing their innovative developments so they are primed to enter the country’s burgeoning tech-market.
 
Laura Smitheman, co-founder of Impact Hub Phnom Penh, said the space will serve as a community where entrepreneurs who are focused on long-term development can collaborate.
 
“TEKHUB will be open to aspiring and budding entrepreneurs who are excited to join a dynamic community, excited to share ideas, collaborate and be exposed to local and international talent who are really passionate about growing their tech businesses,” she said.
 
One of TEKHUB’s premier residents will be CodingGate, a web and mobile app development start-up with its eyes set on becoming Cambodia’s biggest tech outsourcing company in the next five years.
 
When CodingGate CEO Sopheakmonkol Sok launched the company three years ago, he had 13 team members and 11 laptops. Now celebrating their third anniversary, the tech-entrepreneur employs 37 members and counts more than 130 business projects under the company’s belt.
 
“I think this is the best time to take part in the tech industry in Cambodia because the understanding and the acceptance [of technology] by businesses in the country is very wide now,” he said. “Even local small and medium businesses understand the importance of tech, more and more are starting to use a digital way of marketing.”
 
The Impact Hub network spans 90 cities across the globe and TEKHUB members will have access to a web of regional and international contacts – from those working in technology to business and the intersection between the two.
 
The space will also play host to tech and innovation-centered events, workshop and programs that will be open to the public by application. According to Ms. Smitheman, the hub will be a place where tech investors looking to plant their funds in promising Cambodian start-ups will look to for investment opportunities.
 
At the event’s launch, developers debuted new apps – all equipped with Khmer unicode and seeking to address country-specific needs. One of them, Sokhakrom, is an integrated healthcare application that synthesizes information on clinics, illnesses and medications available in the Kingdom.
 
A second app called “My Family” aids in “skillful parenting,” which Mr. Sok describes as “Facebook for families.” The application allows family members to connect, share moments and even budget household necessities through a private social media network.
 
Silas Everett, country director for The Asia Foundation, believes tech innovation has the potential to push the country forward.
 
“Mobile technology in Cambodia is really taking off and the internet penetration in the last five years has been growing year on year quite significantly,” he said.
 
“Internet is very much coming in on the back of smartphone adoption and what that means is there’s a real opportunity for Cambodia to leap frog in a lot of areas – including education, agriculture, access to information, being able to conduct e-commerce and other activities via a smartphone.  
 
“In terms of a frontier that has a lot of promise, technology for Cambodia is quite substantial.”
 
According to The Asia Foundation, 60 percent of Cambodians lack access to a public electricity grid, making smartphone usage a convenient method of communication and information seeking. A 2015 study conducted by Open Institute found that 39.5 percent of mobile phone users owned a smartphone, while 32.5 percent reported that they had used the internet.
 
Thirty percent of those surveyed said they used the internet/Facebook to access information, making it the second most important point of access for information in the survey, after television.
 
Just three years prior in 2012, results showed that respondents were twice as likely to listen to the radio than use Facebook or the internet as a source of information.
 
“Impact Hub and Asia Foundation have been really excited to see the growth of the sector, to see the potential it has for impactful solutions – low cost innovative solutions. Perhaps [the city] has been lacking one space where all the techies can come together and really learn together, experiment and prototype. We really want to be able to bridge the gap between the Cambodian tech scene, regionally and beyond,” Ms. Smitheman said.
 
“When we travel throughout the region we see that there is a demand for coders, programmers, that perhaps isn’t being filled and we think that Cambodia can be fulfilling that need.”

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