Prime Minister Hun Manet highlighted Cambodia’s commitment to digital innovation, and challenges the country faces, as he addressed the eightieth session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) held in Bangkok, Thailand on April 22.

Held under the theme “Leveraging digital innovation for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific”, the session aims to strengthen region-wide cooperation on the use of digital innovation to drive the accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Addressing the first day of the April 22-26 session, Manet stressed how digital innovation is crucial to sustainable, inclusive and resilient development, especially in addressing the inequalities which were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to provide timely responses to the needs sparked by the rapid growth of the region.

“Through the use of technology, we can narrow the gap in access to opportunities and essential services. In other words, it enables us to distribute and redistribute the benefits of development to all people equally.

“Like other countries, Cambodia considers digital technology a critical driver for socioeconomic development in the context of Industrial Revolution 4.0,” he stated.

Manet said digital technology creates new engines of growth and promotes access to essential public services as well as contributing to building a modern and civilised society “where citizens receive inclusive benefits, with reliability and heightened security”.

It also helped maintain national identity and culture, he added.

Manet emphasised the five key priorities in the first phase of his government’s Pentagonal Strategy:  People, roads, water, electricity and technology.

He noted that digital technology is a new priority, as set out in the fifth strategic pentagon policy, building a digital economy and society.

The prime minster also highlighted the government’s implementation of several relevant technology policies, including on the digital economy, digital government, financial technology development and a national policy on science, technology and innovation.

In February 2024, the government adopted a strategic plan for the digital transformation of social protections in Cambodia 2024-2028.

Prime Minister Hun Manet (left) meets with UNESCAP executive secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana in Bangkok, Thailand, on April 22. STPM

“In the global and regional context, Cambodia has been proactively engaging with its digital policy agenda to achieve its global and regional digital development goals, including the Asian Digital Master Plan 2025 and the UN's digital strategy 2022-2025,” he said.

Regionally, the Kingdom is actively involved in several other digital initiatives, particularly the preparation of the Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA), which aims to provide a comprehensive regional strategic approach to promote timely and inclusive digitisation across the region.

He noted that the implementation of this framework will expand the size of the ASEAN digital economy from $1 trillion to $2 trillion by 2030.

“Indeed, Cambodia and the Asia-Pacific region have made significant progress in digitisation over the last few years.

“However, we still face some challenges, including the digital gap between some countries and between cities and rural areas, the lack of infrastructure and access to quality internet service, the limited level of the people’s digital literacy, the lack of adoption and implementation of digital technology, digital trading and services, cyber security, as well as cybercrime,” he said.

He warned that these challenges have hampered the ability of some countries to realise the full growth potential of their economies. War, conflicts and explosive remnants of war also pose an obstacle for some countries to fully embrace digital technology as an engine for growth.

“In this regard, for the case of Cambodia, the issue of demining and removal explosive remnants of war remains an obstacle for overall development, including the bridging of the digital gap and access to quality internet services,” he added.

He explained that the Kingdom has embedded mine action [LT1] as one of Cambodia’s 18 sustainable development goals and remains committed to the fulfilling its obligations under the UN convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production, or transfer of anti-personal mines and the destruction of all mines, commonly known as the Ottawa Convention.

As current president of the Ottawa Convention, Cambodia will host the fifth review conference, “The Siem Reap-Angkor Summit on a Mine-Free World”, from November 25-29.

“I call for joint efforts to eliminate these deadly weapons as well as support and participation in this historic event,” said Manet.

“I strongly believe that together we will be able to make a difference and create a secure and prosperous future for all. Together, we will be able to achieve our sustainable development goals,” he concluded.