Innovation Hub Spells Bright Future

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Cambodian’s entrepreneurial skills are being called on to use technology to build a better future for the country. And innovative ideas look set to turn into reality thanks to the imminent opening of a dedicated innovation hub for young Khmers.

Driven by Development Innovations, a USAID-funded project that promotes positive social change through the use of technology, the organisation aims to help budding young entrepreneurs within the technology and mobile industry to foster, develop and release technology-based tools that lead to a “better Cambodia”.

Greta Greathouse, Development Innovation’s Chief of Party, says, “We believe there is a great potential here for much more change based on technology. There is a nicely flourishing technology sector but up to now it hasn’t really been tapped into.”

With a generation of young Cambodians full of entrepreneurial ideas and equipped with the technological tools to develop them, Development Innovations’ goal is to provide them with a platform to transform their ideas into reality. It will also offer top quality training within different areas of the technology sector.

Within three years, it hopes to have nurtured about 40 skilled young Khmers within the technology and mobile sector. And to help it hit its goal, in March an innovation hub will open its doors near Phnom Penh Sports Club on Street 271.

The three-storey centre for nurturing innovative technology will provide a workspace for budding entrepreneurs to network and come together to create solutions to social problems in Cambodia. It will also host a series of intense training sessions with international and local industry experts, as well as programmes to give budding entrepreneurs the chance to work alongside CEOs to develop their professional skills.

Learning sessions will cover a range of topics surrounding technology innovation. And under a special programme, CEOs will be invited to come up with a problem they need solving by teams of entrepreneurs who will develop ideas, for example software solutions. The best are selected and then created over several months.

The centre will also head a volunteer programme for students, giving them the chance to learn about IT systems and working environments. A mentor programme involving local and international mentors and a grant scheme is also available for eligible businesses and individuals.

“We believe it will be a hub of activity,” Greathouse comments. “There is a lot of talent and interest in this area within the younger generation of Cambodians and that should be encouraged.” She adds she has already spotted a range of innovative ideas, such as an educational app programmed in Khmer that is currently being rolled out across primary schools, and is confident many more will emerge.

As a rapidly growing sector, Greathouse says now is the ideal time to help nurture Cambodia’s constantly growing technology talent pool. “At Bar Camp in October, more than 3,000 people pre-registered,” she remarks. “That’s an astonishing number, and it was interesting to see a lot of girls in the audience.” This is another issue the hub plans to tackle during a series of ‘women in technology’ sessions.

Keep up to date with Development Innovations by liking them on Facebook, here. A website is also currently under construction at www.development-innovation.org