Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Julie Chung at the Technovation National Pitch

Deputy Chief of Mission Julie Chung at the Technovation National Pitch
Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center, Phnom Penh
April 24, 2016

Good morning, everyone.  Happy Khmer New Year, and welcome to the year of the monkey!  I am so excited to be here today with Her Excellency KIM Sethany, Director Thavuth of CKCC, Daniel, Kate, and of course all of you!

Anyone who follows the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook page or Twitter feed knows how much we encourage science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – or STEM, as it is often called.  STEM is an important means to expand economic growth and prosperity.  In fact, improving STEM education is a priority within the American school system.  Like the U.S., one of the many great things about Cambodia is the collaborative culture of innovation; you are bringing together the creativity of the Cambodian people with technological tools to advance your country’s development.  Programs like Technovation and people like you are playing a vital role in supporting and strengthening this culture.

Too often though, women are vastly underrepresented in the STEM fields, which means there is a lot of talent that is not being used.  This is true in countries around the world, even the United States.  That is why I am particularly happy and proud to be here today to see all of the young women who are pitching their ideas this morning, and who are conceptualizing tools that can help their communities, their country, and even the world.

It was just over a year ago that U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama came to Cambodia as part of the global Let Girls Learn Initiative.  I was with her in Siem Reap when we met a number of girls and young women like many of you who had impressive stories about how they were overcoming various challenges in order to get a good education.  The First Lady urged girls to speak up, stand by, and be leaders for their communities. Programs like Technovation can help girls realize their potential and leadership.

But the Technovation Challenge is not just an opportunity for participants to hone their STEM skills through hands-on learning; it is also a venue to bring people together and get others excited about possible careers in STEM fields.  Last month at the annual White House Science Fair, President Obama asked American students how they became interested in STEM, and “there were a couple whose parents were in the sciences, but for the majority of them, there was a teacher, a mentor, a program, something that just got them hooked.”  You all are fortunate that there are so many leaders in technology in Cambodia.  I especially want to thank all the parents who are here today supporting your daughters. Please give the parents a round of applause!

Right now, I want to tell you about Ms. PLONG Malypoeur, who is here today.  Malypoeur is a graduate with a Computer Science Degree from the Royal University of Phnom Penh who then received her Master’s Degree in Electronics and Internet Computing in Belgium.  She earned the Young Engineer and Scientist Award by Honda Foundation, and scholarships for her degrees in both Cambodia and Belgium.  Malypoeur values learning and being involved in her community, now as a Project Manager for a private technology company and as a part-time teacher for RUPP.   She is one of Technovation’s mentors, who has spent her Sundays over the last four months helping the teams learn and practice their tech entrepreneurship skills.  She is also an active organizer for a Google supported event called Women Techmaker, which provides visibility, community, and resources for women in the technology field.  And if that were not enough, Malypoeur also recently developed and launched her own mobile app called “Stops Near Me” to help Cambodians easily find nearby public bus stops, so they never miss the bus.  Thank you Maloypoeur and all the other mentors here today for your important contributions!

And thank you to the teams for participating and to all of you for coming out to support them.  I hope that today’s National Pitch will encourage even more young Cambodian women in technology, whether that is within the school system or other events like Technovation.   Thank you!