Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Julie Chung at the Digital Divide Data’s 15th Anniversary Dinner

(as delivered)
Phnom Penh
November 3, 2016

Thank you Jeremy! Mr. Levin (DDD board chair), board members, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen. Congratulations to Digital Divide Data on 15 years of creating a better future for youth in Cambodia through education, technology, and bridging the digital divide. The Embassy’s relationship with DDD goes back to former Ambassador Carol Rodley, who was first introduced to DDD’s work in 2009. She was truly amazed by what she saw on her first visit. She found a hive of activity – young people working on sophisticated computer equipment, scanning, digitizing and archiving a variety of documents in English, Dutch and French. The atmosphere was amazing with young employees enthusiastically learning real world skills and demonstrating a positive and forward-looking attitude. I’m proud to see that an American organization is doing this great work. DDD represents the values we are proud of in the United States – of philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and giving back to local and global communities.

Cambodia has seen tremendous progress and economic growth since 2001 when Jeremy opened DDD’s first office in Phnom Penh. Young Cambodians now have more opportunities than ever before. But there is still more to be done. Organizations such as DDD play an important role in bringing quality education and employment opportunities to Cambodia – especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Over half of Cambodia’s population is under 25 – this represents a unique opportunity for transformative progress. This is why DDD’s mission to create better futures for youth is so important. DDD’s focus on change through learning and education represents a spirit that is much needed in Cambodia, so you are all doing a tremendous service.

Like DDD, we believe that a small helping hand can make a big difference in the life of a young Cambodian. This is why we support a wide array of educational opportunities for students, from English language education to short and long-term exchanges. Through the English Access Microscholarship Program, for example, we have provided opportunities to more than 1,000 talented students from underprivileged backgrounds to complete an intensive, two-year English program, which they can then use to continue their education or to compete for high-paying jobs. The U.S. Embassy also manages more than 20 exchange programs to the United States, including the world-famous Fulbright program, which provides two year scholarships to study at the Master’s level and above. One of our newer programs is the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), which brings together youth from across Southeast Asia for networking and regional and international exchanges, and provides seed grants to carry out community services projects. This year, we celebrated our 10th anniversary of the Our Peace Corps in Cambodia and are proud of our volunteers who work throughout the provinces to boost English learning.

Organizations like DDD help create the foundation for innovation and creativity. What started out in 2001 with ten people has now blossomed into thousands of people across continents. This is an exciting time to be in Cambodia and empower its youth. I hope we continue to encourage and motivate the young people of Cambodia to give them the tools to do great things for this country.

Again, congratulations for all your work and good luck for your next 15 years and beyond.