Two kingdoms delve into digital team-up

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Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Ouk Sorphorn. SUPPLIED

Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Ouk Sorphorn called on the two kingdoms to aspire to become active players in the regional digital economy and bridge the digital gap between them.

The ambassador was speaking at a webinar on “Connecting Digital Opportunities between Thailand and Cambodia” conducted on September 9 by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of East Asian Affairs.

 

The webinar comes on the heels of a royal decree signed by the King establishing the National Economic and Digital Society Council (NEDSC) to build a foundation of a digital society to drive new economic growth.

Sorphorn stressed that Covid has forced many businesses to reassess strategies and financial planning priorities, pointing out that having a reliable digital platform on which to operate is critically important.

Citing joint research led by Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Oxford Economics in 2017, he said the global digital economy had grown 2.5 times faster than the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) over the past 15 years, bringing its overall size to $11.5 trillion in 2016, equivalent to 15.5 per cent of the global GDP.

ASEAN’s digital economy has expanded by leaps and bounds in recent years, even during the pandemic, and could potentially generate an additional $1 trillion in GDP by 2025, he said referencing a 2018 estimate by US management consultancy Bain and Company.

“It’d be ideal if Thailand could share her best practices and experiences with Cambodia on how to close the gap between the older generation and the digital youths.

“More efforts and priority should be concentrated on building e-government- and e-commerce-based partnerships with the goal of enabling more people to do businesses and access simplified digital services that the countries can offer.

 

“The digital transformation is here to stay and will become more relevant and significant in our lives, business and work.

“Of course, there will be some disruptions and challenges along the way. However, I believe that, with strong political will and continued support, more technology adoptions and reforms will be inevitable, as they would help better prepare countries like Cambodia and Thailand for greater development in the near future,” Sorphorn added.

In June, the government launched the Cambodia Digital Economy and Social Policy Framework 2021-2035, which is expected to inject fresh momentum into the Kingdom’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector.

Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth said the framework sets out a vision of “building a vibrant digital economy and society to foster new economic growth and promote social welfare based on the normalisation of the ‘new normal’”.

He emphasised that the vision must be achieved by 2035, in accordance with three principles – “building a digital foundation”, “digital capture” and “digital transformation”.

“In the context of the Covid-19 crisis, the Cambodia Digital Economy and Social Policy Framework 2021-2035 will be an integral part of the post-Covid-19 economic recovery planning framework, covering the construction of digital infrastructure, attracting domestic and foreign investment, promoting new start-ups, increasing productivity and promoting economic competitiveness,” Pornmoniroth said.

On October 27, the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) launched an inter-bank mobile payment platform, known as the “Bakong System”, aiming to give a powerful impetus to rural financial sector development and nurture financial inclusivity in the Kingdom.

And according to the NBC, the number of digital transactions across the Kingdom jumped 350 per cent from end-2019 to the end of last year, and total value surged 200 per cent to $68 billion.

“At the moment, we have about 1.5 million transactions in the Bakong ecosystem with a value of about $500 million,” NBC director-general Chea Serey told CNN last month.

Cambodian tech and digital businesses achieved $470 million in revenue for 2019, Asian Development Bank (ADB) reported last May.

Broken down by sectors, e-commerce accounted for 27.6 per cent, e-services 7.8 per cent, digital media 10.2 per cent, advertising technology 12.7 per cent, transportation 3.8 per cent and online travel 37.9 per cent, the Metro Manila-based multilateral lender said.