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The Benefits of Digitalization for Economic Development in Cambodia

Subcommittee of Cambodia Economic Research and Analysis
ACLEDA Institute of Business (AIB)
Phnom Penh, June 12, 2019

Introduction

Digitalization and digital transformation are generally defined as the mere alternation of analogue and mutually used and referred to a broad concept affecting politics, businesses, and social issues (Collin et al., 2015; Gimpel & Röglinger, 2015; and Kane etal., 2015). And it is widely used to explain any advance in the organization due to their boosting usages of digital technologies in order to improve the achievement and capacity of business (Westerman etal., 2011). Digital technologies are combined internet, cloud computing, data analytics, and internet of things (IoT) for facilitating the commerce by making it easier for suppliers to connect with customers and improve logistics control. Its present is making people possible to complete transactions, deliver products and services, and make payments faster, more efficient, and lower cost (Box & Lopez-Gonzalez, 2017). Economic development conserves and boosts the national living standard through an action of human and physical infrastructure development based on principles of equity and sustainability (Fitzgerald & Leigh, 2002). Feldman and team define economic development as movements expanding the capacities to realize the potential of individuals, organizations, or nations contributing to the advancement of society through the responsible production of goods and services and its latest result is greater prosperity and higher quality of life; however, it can be realized through sustained innovation, activities that lower transaction costs through responsive regulation, better infrastructure and increased education and opportunities for more fruitful exchange (Feldman et al., 2014).

During last few decades, the benefits of digitalization have affected the daily lives of people world-widely in many ways. Most private institutions also begin to realize the increasing values of digitalization and its benefits provided (Neumeier et al., 2017) as one of core parts of economic development by collaborating, sharing, co-creating, connecting, communicating, mobilizing, and flexing (Bockshecker et al, 2018). Within the digital transformation trend, Cambodia government has issued several policies related to digitalization development and numerous institutions; Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS), Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPTC), Ministry of Commerce (MOC), Ministry of Information (MOI), Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), and a working committee on digital economy have also been established; crossing the government are tasked within implementing these policies and strategies effectively and sustainably (World Bank Group, 2018).

Therefore, a literature review for this white paper has been conducted from many papers and reports published during 2010 to 2019 in order to list stakeholders and investigate benefits of digitalization for economic development in Cambodia.

The stakeholders for digitalization in Cambodia

According to the literature review, the stakeholders of digitalization are classified differently based on the scope and context. Ernst and Young count customers, suppliers and partners, employees, and leaders as the digitalization stakeholders (2011). Murrman also includes investors, bank staff, IT and risk managers, auditor, and customers into this (2018). Moreover, they are comprised of citizens, technology companies, educators, and infrastructure providers and businesses for playing an important role in transforming a digital economic in Cambodia (World Bank Group, 2018). Regarding to these different classifications, we generally include government, providers, and users as the stakeholders of digitalization for economic development in Cambodia.

Government

The Cambodian government has played a significant role in leading, licensing, facilitating, controlling, and solving the digitalization implementation in Cambodia. The Cambodia's most anticipated e-commerce law has been drafted and it is likely passed in 2019 which comprised of 12 chapters divided into 90 articles, covering e-commerce, e-signature, e-government, intermediary or service provider, online consumer protection, online personal information protection, unsolicited message, e-payment, e-evidence, and penalties. And a new cybercrime law is also being drafted to protect both buyers and sellers online from the threat of cyber-attacks (Thora, 2018 & Pheakdey, 2018). Furthermore, the government plans to provide internet access to at least 80% of Cambodians by 2020 and to expand broadband coverage to 100% in urban areas and at least 70% coverage in rural areas (KOICA, 2014).

Providers

Providers here refer to the internet service providers included 3 internet backbone companies—Telecom Cambodia (TC), Viettel (Cambodia) Pte Ltd., and Cambodia Fiber Optic Cable Network (CFOCN)—provide totally 27,100 kilometers of fiber optic; 9 fixed telecommunication companies—Viettel (Cambodia) Pte Ltd., CamGSM Co. Ltd., Telecom Cambodia, Smart Axiata Co., Ltd., Camintel Co., Ltd., Cambodia Advance Communication Co., Ltd., South East Asia Telecom, XinWei Telecom Co., Ltd. and Khmer Unified Network Communicate; 9 mobile telecommunication companies—Viettel (Cambodia) Pte. Ltd., CamGSM Co., Ltd., Smart Axiata Co., Ltd., South East Asia Telecom, XinWei (Cambodia) Telecom Co., Ltd., Star Digital MUSDS TV, Chuan Wei (Cambodia) Co., Ltd., and EMAXX Co., Ltd.; 33 fixed internet service companies—Viettel, Telcom Cambodia (Camnet), Cogetel (Online), XinWei (Cambodia), TelcomTech, Camintel, King Technology (Opennet), ADCG (MekongNet), DTV Star (Digi), Chuan Wei (Cambodia), EZECOM, CIDC info Technology, World City, PPCTV, Citylink, G-Tell (Mega), NTT Communications, Wicam Corporation, Cam GSM, CB Technologies, Neocom ISP Limited, BDK Tel (Y5Net), Satum Holding Group, Max BIT, South East Asia Telecom, STMG (SuperNet), Emaxx Telecom (Kingtel), S.I Group, Anco Brother (TPLC), Angkor Cable TV Internet, Cambo Technology, HT Network, and ATA Telecom; and 6 mobile internet service companies—Smart Axiata, Viettel, CamGSM, XinWei, South East Asia Telecom, and Cadcomms (MPTC, 2016). Their internet service fees are competitive and affordable, and both data and call plans are well below the global average (ITU, 2017).

Users

Users are included mobile and fixed internet users. In 2016, there were total 7,157,409 internet users comprised of 7,074,483 mobile internet users and 82,926 fixed internet users (MPTC, 2016). These users have used devices, applications, and internet services to operate their transactions online included live website; communicate; announce news, media, products, and services; register business applications; apply for visa; book, order, reserve, purchase, or sell products and services; transfer, pay, and receive money; and others (Pheakdey, 2018).

The Benefits of Digitalization for Economic Development in Cambodia

The first internet service has been introduced into Cambodia since 1997 with the assistance of Canada (Alozie, 2011) and its internet portal in the Khmer language with the access points in all 20 provinces of the country was launched in 2003 (Klein, 2005). From that time until present, the digital transformations have provided many benefits for economic development in Cambodia included Authentic Duplication; Automation; Communication Speed; Editing; Information Storage; Low Cost of Services; Smaller Sized Devices; Versatile Working; Entertainment, News, and Social Connectivity; Finance and Banking; GPS and Mapping; Learning Convenience; and Transportation which briefly detailed as following:

Authentic Duplication

One of the great things for digital technology is that it enables the exact duplication of media and task. For instance, they can write a work report and email it to multiple recipients or also distribute the multiple copies of photos to family and friends. Breakthroughs in technology are now happening in the field of 3D printing which looks set to radically transform the world. Pheakdey (2019) finds that in Cambodia, most staff perform basic ITC related to their tasks comprised of searching for information online (nearly 98%); downloading/saving a photo or file online (96%); using email (91%); using messaging apps (90%) such as WhatsApp, Line, Telegram, and Viber; using file sharing applications (85%) such as Dropbox, One drive, and Google drive; using MS Word (84%); completing online application forms (80%), installing/uninstalling software (80%); fixing basic computer software issues (40%); designing a website/ blog (22%); and writing code (9%).

Automation

Digital technology is increasingly making machines smarter. In some cases, the machines no longer need humans to operate them, freeing up workers from often boring tasks for more interesting pursuits. In other cases, smarter machines mean better standards of safety or better experience for users. Products and services drop in price as the technology develops and becomes more common. Many tasks can now be operated directly by customers, rather than having to be done through another person acting as an intermediary, for example, booking hotel and air ticket, transferring and depositing money. Pheakdey (2019) finds that the digital technologies are used among firms in Cambodia to make the operations automated including social media and website (98.36%), point of sale system (95.08%), email marketing/newsletter (65.57%), cloud services (39.54%), video conference/webinars/video streaming (37.70%), web analytics (29.51%), use of artificial intelligence (11.08%), and automation and e-commerce (8.20%).

Communication Speed

The internet service in Cambodia has been provided broadly with the affordable fee charge for a last decade and will cover all over the country in a few forthcoming years. Its speeds have been updated and increased exponentially and competitively by many companies above. Ever faster broadband enables the transfer of large amounts of information across the web almost instantaneously, making it possible to stream video and audio in real time, send large data files, and access data from virtually anywhere in the world by taking time much faster than the traditional media generally taken much longer. Speedtest Global Index in April 2019 reports that in Cambodia, an average download speed is 11.58 Mbps and an average upload speed is 10.13 Mbps for Mobile, while an average download speed is 15.81 Mbps and an average upload speed is 16.86 Mbps for Fixed Broadband (Speedtest Global Index, 2019).

Editing

One of the great advantages of digitalization over traditional media is the information can be easier to edit or manipulate. Word processing has brought about a revolution in the editing of text. Video editing, which used to require expensive studios and equipment, can now be done on a laptop in a bedroom. All sorts of photographic effects are now available, as well as the ability creatively alter images.

Information Storage

Digitalization enables the storage of massive amounts of information in relatively small spaces. Large amounts of media, such as photos, music, videos, contact information, and other documents can be carried around on small devices like mobile phones. As well as physical locations, data can also be stored online, enabling it to be accessed from any device which has internet access. Creative options for editing videos and photos have increased exponentially with the advent of digital technology. The technology is more affordable and easier to use too, what used to require a studio with expensive equipment can now be done at home.

Low Cost of Services

Aside from paying for an internet service and the basics like a modem, much of what the digital world offers can be freely accessed such as sending email, communicating via video link-up with family, and surfing the internet generally cost nothing. Furthermore, it can provide opportunities for low cost self-education, setting up business, buying and selling items, or earning money online by paying around 1$ for 10 GB internet services within assessing 3G, 4G, 4.5G, and/or LTE connections.

Smaller Sized Devices

One general effect of digital technology that is almost taken for granting is that the modern devices can be made much smaller. The smart phones and tablets that we carry around are mini-computers, for instance, capable of surfing the net, working as calculators, planning journeys, capturing and playing photos, audio, and videos, providing games for amusement, as well as operating as phones and having other functions. Smaller devices generally mean more portability and less space used up in living spaces.

Versatile Working

The nature of work has been transformed by digital technology. Increased connectivity options mean that some Cambodian people have more opportunities for working from their homes, as remote working becomes increasingly common. Many jobs can be done from hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away without difficulty. Without the need for all workers to be present in the same building, many other flexible working practices are now possible in Cambodia.

Entertainment, News, and Social Connectivity

The entire entertainment industry and the way that people entertain themselves have been radically transformed. Many Cambodian people get their fun from online social media or playing computer games. Traditional media has been derived too, as televisions and broadcasting have been shifted to digitalization, along with radios. The traditional sources of news and newspapers have been seen, as a dramatic decline in recent years, as digital media takes over. The most of them get news via social media, as well as directly from websites in 24 hours per day. In addition, the digitalization has made social connectivity in Cambodia easier to stay in touch with friends, families, and works remotely; even thought, they are in another part of the country or the world but they can still communicate by words, video, audio, and exchange other media. Many websites, apps, and software have all been created to help Cambodian people to socialize broadly and globally. Within many social media, messages, texts, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, no one of them need feel isolated in the digital world. News and local events have been updated for them regularly. Gaeks reports that in Cambodia, there are 6,800,000 users for Facebook; 3,700,000 users for live music; 3,800,000 users for games; 2,600,000 users for movies; 3,700,000 users for music; 3,500,000 users for reading; and 3,700,000 users for TV; and other users have other interests comprised of 4,500,000 users for business; 4,000,000 users for family and relationships; 1,600,000 users for fitness and wellness; 3,900,000 users for food & drinks; 5,200,000 users for hobbies and activities; 5,100,000 users for shopping and fashion; 3,600,000 users for sports and outdoors; and 4,700,000 users for technology (Gaeks in Cambodia, 2018).

Finance and Banking

There's no doubt that digitalization has led to a revolution in financial matters. Online banking operated either through a laptop, tablet, or phone app has become the norm. Bank users can check their incoming and outgoing payments remotely, as well as arrange money transfers and bill payments. Outside of banking, other financial matters, such as buying and selling currency and shares can be dealt with online also. Transferring money between accounts both nationally and internationally has also seen a great deal of innovation in many recent years. In Cambodia, Among total population, there are only 22% have bank account, 3% have bank cards, 13% receive or make mobile payment via GSMA, and 0.6% make purchase or pay bill online (DataReport, 2018) and 36% have mobile money accounts (UNESCO, 2018. In addition, there are several cashless payment services including ABA Bank e-cash, ACLEDA ToanChet, Agribuddy, AMK Money Transfer, Asia Wei Luy, Banhji, Bank! Bank!, BIDC Mobile, BIMA, Bongloy, Canadia Mobile, CryptoAsia, eMoney, Gmoney Trans, karprak, KB Global, Kiu, Komchey, Ly Hour Pay Pro, Maybank Mobile, Monosluy, Morokot, Pay&Go, Pi Pay, PPCBank Mobile, Prasac, Prince bank Mobile, Sathapana Mobile, SmartLuy, Spean, Tesjor, TosFund, True Money, Wing, and others (Pheakdey, 2018 & Fintechnews, 2019).

GPS and Mapping

In the past, they can find their way around used by a paper map, but recently the digital combined with satellite technology has transformed travelling assistant for travellers. GPS services can pinpoint users' position accurately, update users on traffic jams and road closures in real time, and give users lots of up-to-date information such as time of arrival at their destinations, as well as alternative routes. If users want to find a gas station, hotel, restaurant, drugstore, and/or other places, that's very easy too.

Learning Convenience

Many Cambodian people who can access the internet have accessed to a huge proportion of the world's knowledge over the webs. Lessons and courses can now be delivered virtually online. Communication advances mean that they can now easily communicate with most of the world's population and learn directly from sources, for example if they are trying to understand foreign events or learning a new language. Digital technology can also be easier to use for people with disabilities and often give them equal access. In 2015, MoEYS published the curriculum framework for general and technical educations to guide the stakeholders for developing the relevant and significant documents and a new subject of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Computer, has been added into the national curriculum, grade 4 to 12, for incorporating and introducing the modernization of teaching methodology in all levels of education (MoEYS, 2015). To support this issue, National R&D Fund has been created in July 2017 to aid the development of ICT sector supported by each telecom firm in Cambodia by contributing 1% of their gross revenue to the reserve (Pheakdey, 2019). Furthermore the digital materials can be exchanged through a portal created by MoEYS including interactive multimedia, posters, digital lesson plans and video clips arranged by different categories and grade levels. And since early 2017 the 12th grade students can practice for final examination by using an online application on smartphones, tablets, and PCs for practice test in math, physics, chemistry, biology, and history and then they can get results immediately (UN-OHRLLS, 2017).

Transportation

Cambodian people can access timetables and also book tickets of some transportation companies in Cambodia online. In the last few years, there have been many metered taxis App companies comprised of Pass App Taxi, Exnet Taxi, iTsumo, Grab, Wego, EZGo, Uber, Global Taxi, Great Wall Taxi, and Choice Taxi offering a safer and less expensive ride than the alternatives by reserving in advance via phone or app then it will arrive in less than 10 minutes and be available in 24 hours per day (Move to Cambodia, 2018). Furthermore, there are around 130 startups of various categories including fintech, logistic, and online booking startups (Pheakdey, 2018).

Conclusion and Recommendation

Conclusion

The stakeholders of digitalization in Cambodia comprised of government, providers, and users played the significant roles in developing the Cambodia Economic in the past, present, and future. The Cambodian government is responsible for leading, licensing, facilitating, controlling, and solving the digitalization implementation based on the laws, policies, procedures, guidelines. The providers in Cambodia for digitalization are comprised of 3 internet backbone companies, 9 mobile telecommunication companies, 33 fixed internet service companies, and 6 mobile internet service companies. Even though the internet service fees are competitive and affordable, and both data and call plans are well below the global average, but there are only 50% of population are the users of digitalization in Cambodia.

The digitalization has disrupted the conventional models and brought lots of benefits in many ways to make Cambodian people's lifestyle more convenient by providing a platform connected the buyers and sellers across the globe and updating the status of transactions online within the digital devices for authentic duplication, automation, communication speed, editing, information storage, smaller sized devices, versatile working, entertainment and news, finance and banking, GPS and mapping, learning convenience, transportation, social connectivity, and so on within the low cost of services.

Recommendation

The Cambodian government has always strictly encouraged and involved in digitalization with the other stakeholders that is the golden chance for the providers and users to take part with by investing more products and services in order to fulfill the customers and clients' needs in the country, region, and world.

All the stakeholders should learn more details about the benefits of digitalization and bring these to improve their work and service qualities as soon as possible in order to reduce the costs of products or services and fulfill the customers' needs for competing with other competitors in the country, region, and world. Furthermore, they should concentrate on its advantages and disadvantages and well ready and prepare for this transformation effectively and sustainably.

Acknowledgements

This paper, without supporting ACLEDA Institute of Business (AIB), would not be accomplished. We also would like to deeply thank to Management of AIB for supporting, inspiring, and commenting us to achieve this white paper.

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