Institute de Technologie du Cambodge (ITC), Phnom Penh
March 18, 2016
Good morning, everyone. I am thrilled to be here today with His Excellency Sarak Khan, the other distinguished guest speakers, and of course you all! It is fantastic to see so many young people interested in technology.
Last week many of you attended the Cambodia Science and Engineering Festival, and it was amazing that so many people came with such energy and passion. Events like the Science and Engineering and Inno-Tech Festivals are important because innovation and technology matters. They can provide a powerful engine for advancing economic growth and new opportunity. Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, the world’s largest computer software company, predicts that the major breakthroughs in development over the next 15 years will be driven either by innovations in technology or those that enable more people to gain access to that technology. And this Festival celebrates the fact that young Cambodians like you are not just users of technology, but also innovative technology creators in your own right.
Who here knows who Mark Zuckerberg is? He is an American who was probably about the same age as you when he had an idea that led to the creation of Facebook, which has revolutionized the way that young people around the world communicate. Why can’t the next Mark Zuckeberg, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs come from Cambodia?
Consider Ms. SOK Sikieng, for example. Sikieng is the Cambodian coordinator for this year’s global Technovation mobile app and business plan challenge, which is supported by USAID’s Development Innovations project. This year, Sikieng is helping 14 all-female Cambodian teams s between the ages of 10-18 design and test mobile tools to solve problems in their communities. Last year, one of the Cambodian Technovation teams was a semi-finalist for the Asia and the Pacific Technovation Challenge. Sikieng is passionate about these programs and wants to get more Cambodian girls and women into the tech sector. Keep an eye out for announcements about the Technovation National Pitch event later in May and see what these young teams have designed. While the United States has accounted for a sizable share of technological innovations, young men and women like Sikieng demonstrate that future advances can happen here in Cambodia.
In addition to participating in events like the Inno-Tech Festival, I encourage you all to seek out other opportunities to hone and showcase your skills. One such opportunity is the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, or YSEALI. YSEALI was launched in 2013 by President Barack Obama to support ASEAN youth between the ages of 18 and 35 years old who care about economic development, the environment, education, and civic engagement in Southeast Asia. YSEALI recently issued the World of Food Innovation Challenge, which is seeking ideas from young people like you for innovative technology solutions to help us tackle some of the region’s most daunting food security challenges. The teams that submit the most promising concepts will be invited to join other young ASEAN leaders on a weeklong training in Singapore and to participate in a study tour to the United States.
Opportunities like these and events like today – are what make me and many others excited about the future of Cambodia. I applaud each of you and wish you much success. Thank you and I hope you enjoy the Inno-Tech Festival!