Business Leaders Discuss Present And Future Of E-Commerce

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BritCham’s eBusiness Group provides a forum for businesses to engage on the topic of e-commerce in Cambodia.

Cambodia has been chosen as a pilot country for an ambitious e-commerce program from the UN, with $3 billion earmarked over the next three years to support online businesses – a move that will help counter some of the many challenges that plague the development of the sector in Cambodia such as the lack of a law to regulate the industry and a huge skills gap.

The information transpired during a meeting of the eBusiness Group of the British Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, which brought together business leaders and ICT professionals with interests in e-commerce. The initiative, known as eTrade for All and led by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), aims to improve the ability of developing countries to benefit from e-commerce.

Cambodia and Bhutan have been chosen as pilot countries to provide testing grounds for the initiative, said Chris McCarthy, founder of marketing and media agency MangoTango Asia and co-chair of the eBusiness Group.

“Cambodia is seen as a great test market,” said McCarthy. “We have a robust infrastructure, including four undersea cables, good bandwidth and a reliable electrical grid.”

BritCham hopes to attract some of the money that will be made available through the eTrade for All program to finance some of the initiatives of its eBusiness Group, which include a market study and a code of conduct for the sector. The group is also working on developing a method to assign delivery codes to all locations in Cambodia in order to facilitate order delivery.

Attendants to the meeting also discussed some of the impediments to the development of e-commerce in the Kingdom. Some reiterated Cambodia’s lack of e-commerce regulation and the uncertainty that this brings to businesses and consumers.

The disparity between what businesses need and what job applicants bring to the table was also examined during the meeting. DigitalRain CEO Chris Wray shared the findings of a report on professional skills in the IT industry produced by his marketing, consulting, and events company.

Wray, who co-authored the report, said he found that the skills possessed by university graduates “were nowhere near the level required by big and small firms”. Contrary to popular belief, soft skills, as opposed to technical or “hard” skills, was the area where new graduates underperformed the most. “Leadership, self-management and dealing with stress; in all of these areas subjects rated low,” said Wray.

Higher-order thinking skills, which involve processing information and drawing conclusions using critical thinking and problem solving, are not taught or encouraged at institutions of higher education, while teamwork is also overlooked, he added.

The immediate consequence of this dearth of skills is that companies need to train new hirees for up to three years to bring them up to standard, said Wray, noting that this was “very costly” for businesses.

Other attendees of the meeting included representatives of local marketing and media agency Sabay Digital, legal firms DFDL and ZICOlaw, security services provider GSS, as well as the ICT Federation and the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia. CamboTicket, an online platform for purchasing bus tickets, was also represented at the meeting. The eBusiness Group will convene again in January.