Collaboration between governments, private sector entities, civil society actors and other development partners is a “must” for Cambodia’s digital socio-economic transformation and to unlock new sources of growth, telecoms ministry secretary of state Sok Puthyvuth said on March 29.

Puthyvuth was speaking on the first of a two-day Digital Economy Forum entitled “Promoting the Digital Economy in Asia: A Private Sector Advocacy Network Connecting Business Chambers in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, and Thailand”.

The Cambodia Digital Economy and Society Policy Framework 2021-2035 “sets out a long-term vision to build a vibrant digital economy and society by laying the foundations for promoting digital adoption and transformation in all sectors of society – the state, citizens, and businesses – to promote new economic growth and improve social welfare in the ‘new normal’”, he said.

Quality digital infrastructure, services and offerings along with trust and confidence are “essential” to achieve that vision, as well as to ensure an inclusive transformation with minimal risks, where new trends stemming from the adoption of linked solutions are embraced, he added.

“New challenges and opportunities are emerging which will push country to adapt to change in all areas such as in the labour force, culture, tradition, the way we work and communicate, how we provide services, personal data protection, cross-border data flow, fintech, cyber-security,” Puthyvuth said.

As it strives to catch up to nearby countries on all things digital, Cambodia is striving to understand what type of society and future is being carved out, he said.

To this end, he noted, the government established the National Digital Economy and Society Council with three committees: the Digital Economy and Business Committee (DEBC), the Digital Government Committee (DGC), and the Digital Security Committee.

Collaboration of all stakeholders is key to the realisation of digital-economy objectives and creation of a vibrant eco-system so as to ensure that everyone has access to the associated tools and technologies, he reiterated.

“Many stakeholders are already working to increase network availability and affordability, [improve] digital literacy, and support digital job creation as well as the underserved community,” he said, presenting public-private partnerships as high-potential drivers of the digital economy.

US ambassador Patrick Murphy reflected on Cambodia’s progress towards a “digital future” over the past few years, which he said encompasses its “digital emerging economy”.

“We have invested in and built awareness of cyber security and best practices with our Cambodian and regional partners. The US embassy, through our US programmes, has provided digital skill training to more than 1,000 small and medium enterprises here in the Kingdom over the past three years.

“More broadly, across Southeast Asia, the United States has trained more than 500,000 businesses in digital literacy skills, online commerce, and cyber security best practices,” he said.

“In overview, promoting fair and transparent digital standards and norms is absolutely essential to support the private sector. We are here to advocate for the private sector.

“For this reason, we also help small and medium enterprises across Southeast Asia to improve their cyber security, build resilient ICT [information and communication technologies] infrastructure, and strengthen data privacy.

“We’ll continue to work with partners to ensure that the cyber space and digital policies are encouraged, and democratic principles and openness, and in a way that respects human rights – this is very important in the digital world,” he added.

Puthyvuth stressed that Cambodia has adopted – or is in the process of adopting – laws, policies and other instruments intended to facilitate the digital transformation.

He offered examples such as the open-data, data-governance and personal data protection policies as well as the digital-government, access to information, and cyber-security laws.

American Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (AmCham) co-chair Christopher McCarthy lauded the forum as a catalyst for: growth; policies and improvements in digital trade and advanced cyber security practices; and ensuring operational efficiency in businesses within the wider regional digital and e-commerce eco-system.

This, he suggested, will advance digital policies and promote a secure, open and inclusive digital economy.