Interview: Leap Sok – System Experts Asia

You might know him as one of the organisers of the Startup Weekend series, where like minded individuals come together across an intense 54 hour period to create a credible business over a single weekend. But that’s not all he does.

Leap Sok is also the founder of System Experts Asia (SEA), a consulting and IT servicing company that is championing Open Source in the Kingdom.

The SEA model is simple. They approach their customers and take the pains to understand the various challenges and obstacles their customers face. From there, they customise, propose and implement a solution based on Open Source technology that is tailored to their customers’ needs.

Recently, the company has also taken an interest in Education Technology (EdTech) in the Kingdom and they have been working with schools to help them develop open source solutions that can help students learn better through technology.

Geeks in Cambodia sat down with Leap Sok(L) to find out more about SEA and their current EdTech focus.

The following interview has been edited for clarity, flow and language.

What inspired you to start SEA?

L: I’ve been an IT professional for more than 10 years and I observed a lot of problems with the licensing of softwares that organisations use. Then, several years ago, I was introduced to Open Source technology which I realised was a powerful tool and software which allowed everyone, from small to larger organisations, to use software that was legitimate and readily available. As such, we started the company to help organisations come up with a legitimate alternative.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in developing SEA?

L: Apart from the challenge that every company has, which is to make sure that there are enough projects running, human resource is another big challenge. As Open Source is new to everyone in the country, one challenge is making sure that everyone in the company is able to understand the solution and the value of the company so that we are able to deliver it to the community/customer.

What are some benefits of using Open Source technology?

L: There are many advantages but I took two biggest points of using Free and Open Source Software:

  1. The businesses and users can take the pieces of open source software and tailor them to suit their needs. Since the source code is open, it’s simply to modify and add the functionalities they want. It does not happen with proprietary software!
  2. When businesses turn to open source software, they don’t lock themselve with any vendors as proprietary software. Businesses and customers stick to mercy of the vendor’s vision, requirements, dictates, prices, priorities and timetable. Especially they are limited to the products features compare to what they’re paying for. With Free Open Source Software, businesses and users are in control to make their own decisions and to do what they want with the software. They also could access to a worldwide community of developers and users.

You mentioned that you are focusing on EdTech at this moment, did you intend for the company to focus on EdTech?

L: Nope, originally we didn’t really focus on EdTech. When we started, we had broader business objectives like working with private companies and businesses. But after awhile, we noticed a big gap in education as many technology companies or private companies were already in a better place in terms of technology but there was a big gap in terms of what could be done for education in the Kingdom.

Could you elaborate on the “gap” and how you feel Open Source Technology could close said gap?

L: I think we identified that the biggest gap between technology and what was being applied was in the education sector. The students have limited access to computers and better quality ICT resources while teachers spend a lot of time to handle administrative work like grading/attendance etc, which takes away their time from engaging with students and developing their curriculum.

As such, by integrating open source, students can have access to quality software that is free while also letting the educators have more time to focus on the education of the students.

What would be your dream for Open Source & EdTech in Cambodia? 

L: If you look at the financial industry, like banking, it’s the industry that has been investing the most in improving their ICT. For education, its recognised as one of the most important aspects to develop the next generation which would mean that the ICT infrastructure would need to improve to see our education system improve. And I think a big part about this is to try and use Open Source to bring education using technology to the students that are living in the provinces and have trouble coming to the city to study.

And that was our interview with Leap Sok, the founder of System Experts Asia, an open source consultancy company that is focusing on EdTech. Indeed, here at Geeks in Cambodia, we fully support Open Source being introduced to the EdTech scene and can’t wait to see how it positively impacts education in the Kingdom.

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