Cambodia’s telecommunications provider Smart Axiata yesterday announced a $1 million COVID-19 Relief Fund in a demonstration of support as the Kingdom deals with the Coronavirus pandemic. The dedicated fund, which is over and above Smart’s annual corporate social responsibility commitment of more than 1 percent of its revenue, is expected to provide monetary assistance for high impact solutions to address Cambodia’s most urgent needs during and after the crisis.
The move was welcomed by welfare groups concerned at the potentially devastating effects of the virus that warned people will suffer as jobs are lost and household income plummets. The social effects could be drastic, they agreed.
Smart Axiata commitment was made just three days after Smart and Chinese tech firm Huawei installed a temporary onsite COVID-19 coordination and monitoring centre for the Ministry of Health. Since Friday, the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital and Chak Agre Health Centre are connected to the ministry via video conferencing facilities using 5G trial frequencies to ensure dedicated, fast and consistent performance. This temporary setup became the first ever 5G-use live in Cambodia.
“Although we have invested hundreds of thousands in the last few weeks already, we see a major gap between actual needs of various kinds and available support so far. This $1 million fund targets initiatives based on four focus areas: information and communications technology for education, crisis management, social distancing and personal hygiene. Private and/or public sector partnerships are encouraged to submit proposals of up to $200,000 each,” said Thomas Hundt, chief executive officer of Smart Axiata.
Applications are open from April 8, whereby proposals can be submitted based on a set of criteria. All submissions will then be shortlisted internally before being tabled to a joint evaluation committee comprising of Smart Axiata Group and independent representatives. More information about this fund will be provided on the Smart Axiata and Smart For Cambodia Facebook pages in the coming days.
“Besides temporarily connecting the Ministry of Health’s command centre free using our 5G trial licences, we have also provided additional free data for e-top ups, Smart @Home and Enterprise customers. Yesterday, #StaySafe was added to our operator label for compatible mobile phones to encourage social distancing. Efforts to disseminate COVID-19 best practices via different channels from verified sources such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health have been increased. We will certainly not stop here as we continue exploring ways to make life better during this challenging time,” Hundt added.
Internally, Smart has been proactive in ensuring the well-being of all employees, partners and customers based on its company-wide Business Continuity Management Plan. This includes mandatory temperature checks and hand sanitising, rigid cleaning procedures, requiring all frontline employees to wear masks, working from home where possible, postponing company events and encouraging virtual meetings.
“Telecommunications services are deemed essential services in many countries, alongside other public utilities such as water and electricity. As we continue monitoring the situation, we also understand that our millions of customers heavily depend on us to stay connected. Hence, we will do everything in our power to serve them effectively with the support of the Royal Government of Cambodia throughout this crisis,” said Hundt.