Cambodia is changing from a quiet, tranquil country to a lively, tech-savvy nation. Walk down the streets of Phnom Penh and you’ll pass a host of millennial Cambodians gripping smartphones, beavering away on their social media accounts, shading their washed-out screens from the summer sun’s glare.
Walk into a university library and you’ll see students, chin in palm, studying YouTube videos that offerknowledge encompassing everything from graphing parabolas to sculpting the perfect contour.
The bright lights of Phnom Penh’s LED billboards and illuminated cityscape epitomize the nation’s technological progress. They’re now beginning to illuminate the country’s more rural provinces too. Cambodia’s technological revolution is changing its economic landscape and providing a path towards a vastly improved economic future.
Cambodia currently has nearly seven million internet users, a 1.3 million increase on last year, and twenty million mobile phone accounts in a nation of 15.76 million people. This is in no small part due to the leaps and bounds made in infrastructure developments within the last decade, which have secured consistent access to electric power networks throughout the kingdom.
A 2016 study published by The Open Institute found that more than 37 percent of Cambodians aged 15 to 65 claimed to use the internet, or to have been exposed to it at some point in their lives. Moreover, 96 percent of Cambodians claimed to own their own phone, and more than 99 percent of those participating in the survey described having access to a phone.
This technological revolution, permeating both urban and marginalised populations, is driving Cambodia’s nascent banking and finance sector. Multi-channel banking, an effort to expand access to banking solutions through 24/7 support, increased cash deposit machines, and online resources for checking bank accounts and performing transactions, have made banking services in the kingdom cheaper and more accessible than ever before. Considering that only 40,000 Cambodians currently possess credit cards, and only 1.5 million (ten percent) hold bankcards, there is tremendous room for growth.
ACLEDA, one of the largest banks in Cambodia, launched a mobile application, ACLEDA Unity ToanChet, earlier this year. In the words of In Channy, president and CEO of Acleda, “ACLEDA ToanChet is an innovative product that allows secure and convenient banking access to customers from all walks of life, from anywhere, and anytime they wish to perform a business transaction.”
ACLEDA’s application is free and easy to download on the App or Play Store and is available to anyone with access to a mobile device. Clients can practice navigating the app at their own speed with guided instructions provided in both English and Khmer.
Bank employees offer volunteer services wherein they instruct customers, in person, on how to use the platform, avoiding the hassle of travelling to ACLEDA branches at all. Everything you need to actively make bill payments, transfer funds, and check your savings is made available right in your pocket.
In merely four and a half months, ACLEDA Unity ToanChet has secured subscriptions from 115,000 registered users, increasing by 1,000 new subscribers each working day.
And Channy is foreshadowing even more growth for the digital wallet app in the future.
“I think at this speed, in five years time, there will be at least two million registered customers and they will be part of the new trend of conducting banking services on digital platforms,” he said.
Regarding the bank’s growing engagement with Cambodia’s rural populations, he elaborated, “I strongly believe that e-banking reaches previously untapped demographics. These include tuk-tuk drivers, taxi drivers, those who sell fish or vegetables, and people living in remote areas.”
Phnom Penh Commercial Bank (PPCBank) is another Cambodian financial institution investing heavily in mobile banking.
PPCBank recently debuted its mobile app in Cambodia, with the app available in Khmer, English, Korean, Chinese and Japanese.
In a bid to reach out to the rural communities in Cambodia, PPCBank has also installed a non-account transfer feature in this app. This function, which can also be termed a cardless withdrawal, allows for customers to withdraw without an account or card.
“We want to cater to all demographics with this app. The digital divide should not exist, and with this app we hope to make the banking process a much simpler one for all customers banking with us without any prejudice,” Shin Chang Moo, president of PPCBank, said.