SmartStart Program To Help Young Innovators Realise Their Ideas

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Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron (middle) and Smart Axiata CEO Thomas Hundt, left, at the launch of the SmartStart Young Innovator Program. KHMER TIMES / CHOR SOKUNTHEA

Smart Axiata, one of the leading mobile operators in Cambodia, yesterday officially launched its digital young innovator program SmartStart, aimed at helping young Cambodians develop their innovative digital-related business ideas into actual businesses or products.

SmartStart is a nine-month university program initiated to inspire, enable and grow technology-related business ideas by unleashing the innovative potential of students and empowering them to realize these ideas through workshops and mentorship.

The program – endorsed by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport – will pilot in four top Cambodian universities: the Royal University of Phnom Penh, the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, the National University of Management, and the National Institute of Posts, Telecoms and ICT.

It specifically targets junior and senior university students who aspire to make a change through innovative digital-related business ideas.

Smart Axiata CEO Thomas Hundt said that with the living, evolving digital world, information and communications technology (ICT) has had an impact on nearly everything in our daily lives – changing the way we communicate, socialize, study, pay bills or listen to music for instance.

“Social media and mobile applications are an integrated part of the digital revolution, giving rise to new services across the mobile ecosystem and transforming our lives,” said Hundt.

He said SmartStart has been framed in such a way that it will not only give students the knowledge, but also the tools in terms of hands-on experience, mentorship and funding. The program is intended to promote aspiring innovators and accelerate ICT development in Cambodia, he added.

“We believe the young generation is the future of Cambodia’s digital economy. Young Cambodians are as smart, innovative and talented as the people around other countries,” he said.

“Cambodia needs, however, a well-structured platform to bridge the gap and develop untapped ingenuity – that is why we have decided to come up with SmartStart.”

Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said that on the eve of the fourth industrial revolution, characterized by digitalization and automation, Cambodia’s young generation must equip themselves with ICT knowledge and skills.

“I encourage young innovators from all four universities to take up this great opportunity with Smart over the next few months. The SmartStart program will significantly contribute to the Ministry of Education’s vision of developing a knowledge-based society in Cambodia,” Naron said.

“In an increasingly interconnected world, I am delighted to see Smart involved in developing new initiatives for our young Cambodians by leveraging on its ICT expertise.”

Kan Channmeta, secretary of state of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, said that e-education was one of the key areas of the Cambodia ICT Master Plan, which his ministry launched in 2014.

E-education is among five priority projects the Cambodian government is working on from 2014 to 2020. The ministry also passed the new Telecommunications Law and created the ICT and Telecom Development Policy 2020.

“In the Telecom and ICT Development Policy, connectedness and ICT readiness is clearly mentioned,” said Channmeta.

“We need to strengthen our own connectedness and infrastructure, strengthen the ICT industry and support human resources and skills acquisition. With support from the ministry, I am optimistic that the program will advance and contribute towards spurring Cambodia’s digital innovation and economy.”

This article was first published in the Khmer Times.