To which we say, why not Cambodia?
One of the poorest countries in the world, Cambodia is often overlooked as a country capable of leveraging on the digital revolution – a privilege almost synonymous to the first-world nations.
However, Cambodia proved us wrong. Having made a few visits to the Kingdom of Cambodia, we have seen for ourselves the vast potential for Cambodians to tap on the powers of the Internet to better the socio-economic growth and development of the country.
How We Got Started In Cambodia.
Digital Influence Lab (Cambodia) is an unification of two individuals on two ends of the spectrum – Lim Yan Chun with his experience in the non-profit sector and Sharon Neo with her passion in business and digital marketing.
It all started when Yan Chun was first introduced to Cambodia by a Singaporean friend who was setting up his social enterprise. During his visit, he worked with youths from the rural villages who were interested to learn how to use digital tools such as Photoshop to offer design and photography services.
Having seen how technology and the use of digital tools helped create jobs for the youths he was working for, Yan Chun realized the best way to help them is to make structural and sustainable impacts on the economy that will benefit the lives of Cambodians in the long run. Through this, he also realized that Cambodia was still an unpolished gem in the industry of digital marketing and had great potential to improve the socio-economic development of the country.
That’s when he decided to look for an expert in the field of digital marketing and through the power of social media, managed to find Sharon through a simple Facebook post.
Sharon, who spent two years during her university days working in the social entrepreneurship, resonated deeply with the importance of giving back and felt that she could add value to a developing country like Cambodia.
After a few Skype calls and meetings, Sharon and Yan Chun was on board the next flight to Cambodia.
Internet Is Everywhere. And Free.
Take a stroll along the streets of Phnom Penh and walk into an unsuspecting noodle store for breakfast. Look to your left and you might just see a ‘FREE Wifi” sign. Take a bus out to the village; you might just see another ‘FREE Wifi’ sign in another restaurant.
Evidently, Internet is everywhere in the Kingdom. According to the Ministry of Posts and Telecom (2014), the number of Internet users has risen from 320,190 in 2010 to 3,800,000 in 2013 – an increase of 1,187% in a mere 4 years.
Not only is the Internet accessible, it’s cheap and fast. Cambodia has skipped an entire generation of copper wires and jumped straight into optic fiber communications, providing high speed internet over two-thirds of Cambodia. A prepaid data card from Cambodia’s leading telecommunications provider, Cell Card, costs a mere USD $5 for 3.5GB of data – far more advanced and affordable than some first-world countries.
The solid infrastructure of Internet in Cambodia provides a strong foundation for Cambodians and businesses to capitalize on the power of digital platforms for education. Furthermore, it allows businesses and marketers to share their message with the audience at a much lower cost.
Cambodians Love Their Mobile Devices.
In Phnom Penh, it is not rare to see a Tuk-Tuk driver whip out ‘Google Maps’ on his smartphone to help you find your way around the busy city.
There is reportedly a 126% mobile penetration rate in Cambodia in 2014. That means that each Cambodian owns more than 1 mobile phone on average. This number is a gives marketers and businesses great insight on how to reach Cambodians – through digital devices like their mobile phones.
While the number of 3G mobile subscriptions stand at 13.8%, we are likely to see this number grow steadily with the accessibility of Internet and the affordability of 3G in Cambodia.
With a device designed to receive information on-the-go, Cambodians are always ready to communication, learn, and receive updates – a great way for them to learn and be educated about the world around them.
With a solid internet infrastructure in place coupled with the frequent use of a mobile device that allows Cambodian users to receive information instantaneously, this is a prime combination for companies, educators and mere users to reach out to more people than traditional media ever can.
The Power of Digital.
With great information comes great knowledge, and with knowledge comes education and empowerment. The availability of information the Internet in Cambodia is a promising sign that Cambodians is empowered to better themselves through education.
Facebook is the most preferred social media network in Cambodia, with over 1.7 million Facebook users, and 1,000 new users joining everyday. With Facebook becoming an integral part of most leading companies’ digital marketing strategy, from the likes of prestigious financial institutions to popular telecom service providers and leading startups, Facebook dominates much of the personal and business aspects of many people’s lives in Cambodia.
We recognize the window of opportunity for digital platforms to positively impact the Cambodian society and are working towards forming more strategic partnerships with traditional marketing agencies, non-profit organizations, and other agencies on this opportunity to generate social and economic impacts for the betterment of Cambodia.
We have been part of the digital revolution in Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia, and we believe that it is now time for Cambodia.
(Written by Theresa Syn, on behalf of Lim Yan Chun and Sharon Neo.)