Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the Launch Ceremony of the Microsoft Student Partners Program in Cambodia

Royal University of Phnom Penh
August 17, 2016

Good morning everyone. I’m delighted to be here at the launch of the Microsoft Student Partners program in Cambodia and to be in the company of our friends at the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports; STEM Cambodia; and of course, Microsoft.

I’m particularly pleased that we are joined today by so many talented young students majoring in technology related fields who are eager to share their passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math with their friends and classmates.

A few months ago I participated in a roundtable on the future of Cambodia’s technology sector with a senior visitor from the Department of State who has years of experience in the technology sector, the leaders of Cambodia’s emerging technology sector – we call that the creative economy – and a senior official from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. This guy I know named Allen Tan was the moderator.

This was a very exciting event for a lot of reasons. But the most exciting part was hearing from the ITC Federation leaders how rapidly Cambodia’s small tech sector is growing today. Here are just a few facts:

  • The number of online users has expanded from 27,000 seven years ago to nearly seven million today.
  • The number of university students majoring in information technology has grown from 1,500 seven years ago to 16,000 today. Four thousand students a year are graduating with IT degrees.
  • Cambodia has approximately 300 ITC companies employing 30-40,000 professionals.
  • And most impressively, participants estimate that within five years, the sector will double in size, and within ten years, should employ over 100,000 people.

But participants also discussed some of the barriers holding back Cambodia’s development as a technology sector. And, you won’t be surprised to learn, that despite the larger number of IT graduates, one of the key barriers holding back the sector is a lack of human resources.

That’s where programs like the Microsoft Student Partners program can make a big difference. The great thing about the MSP program is that it is a peer-to-peer network, where Student Partners are given the tools to serve as technology leaders.

These networks are a great way to supplement formal technology courses of study and raise the level of tech awareness and skills among young people.

The MSP program is also a terrific vehicle for building leadership, communication, and technology skills among the Student Partners that will help them build successful tech careers.

Cambodia needs bright, young, committed tech leaders, and I hope some of you in this room will launch tech companies, develop creative new software applications, become an IT professor at one of Cambodia’s university, or contribute to Cambodia’s development in some other way.

Another great feature of this program is that it demonstrates how U.S. companies like Microsoft are contributing in meaningful ways to Cambodia’s development, including by making technology more accessible, more useful, and more attuned to the needs of Cambodian users.

I’m delighted that Microsoft has joined with some terrific local partners to support technology development in Cambodia. The Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports, under the direction of Minister Hang Chuon Naron, understands the role that technology can play in improving educational outcomes for children and young adults and has lent its support to many new initiatives.

Our friends from STEM Cambodia have made huge strides in raising interest among Cambodia’s young people in STEM education and careers in just a short period of time and are harnessing the power of Cambodia’s youth networks.

I can think of no better way to strengthen Cambodia’s tech sector than to increase the number of young people studying science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

And you can also count on the United States Embassy as a partner. We are a founding sponsor of the Cambodian Science & Engineering Festival, and next month we will host a special State Department TechCamp with participants from Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Burma to promote healthy waterways in the Lower Mekong region.

We have seven new Fulbright scholarships students starting their studies in the United States this month, and three of whom are in science and technology fields. We hope more Cambodian STEM students will apply to U.S. universities in the future.

As I said at the start, I’m truly delighted and honored to be with you all today. Let me thank once again Microsoft, STEM Cambodia, and the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports.

And most of all, let me send my best wishes to the Microsoft Student Partners, who will be the ones to make this initiative a success. Thank you very much.