Retrospective: Cambodia’s ICT Solutions in Action at Development Innovations

On the 26th of May last week, Development Innovations hosted a short event highlighting information and communication technology (ICT) solutions in action in the Kingdom, with various ICT sectors in Cambodia coming forward to share their stories.

Mr Charles North, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator from USAID/Washington, graced the crowd with his presence while making an opening speech on USAID’s priorities for key members of the CSO and technology community, before a short answer and question session with the audience.

Focusing on education, Mr Charles said, “Recent studies say that there are over 250 million children around the world who do not know how to read, write, or do basic math. These are children who will never reach their potential or realise their abilities; they will never have opportunities to be leaders in their society.”

“Learning how to read, write, and do math are critical skills for everything else that you want to do. Not knowing how to do so is not only a loss for individual students, but also a loss for the community, the country, and our world.”

In order to curb this problem in the Kingdom and alleviate poverty, World Education Cambodia (WEC) developed a TEST app that helps Grade 1 and 2 students with their reading assessments through the use of mobile tablet computers.

After the remark made by Mr Charles, representatives from WEC, Jacole Douglas (Basic Education Technical Advisor) and Sokchanna Chhay (one of the programmers behind the TEST app), then went on to demonstrate how the app works.

Jacole Douglas, Basic Education Technical Advisor for WEC, explaining how the TEST app helps students

Tablets were handed out to the audience, where we got a first hand view of the app while playing the role of students taking a test. Sokchanna then demonstrated the different elements of TEST while taking on the role of a teacher.

The app is controlled entirely by the teacher. Students are given several choices in each question where they have to pick the right answer. All the data is then transferred to the teacher’s laptop, where he/she will have access to each answer that each student has chosen.

There is also a time limit for each question – this has helped to minimize cheating amongst students because they don’t have much time to look over their friends’ shoulders anymore. Currently, WEC has implemented the TEST app in over 7 different schools, with plans to expand to 100 schools in the near future.

Following their demonstration, technology entrepreneur Kruy Vanna then went on to showcase his mobile application – the Khmer Smart Keyboard – through a presentation.

Vanna recognized the problem of an emerging trend where more people were using Romanized letters to write Khmer online. This made it difficult for many other Cambodians who did not know English alphabets to read or understand. Thus, Vanna and his team created the Khmer Smart Keyboard app, which provides faster and easier typing of Khmer Characters. His aim was to eventually encourage more people to type in Khmer characters online, opening the gateway to digital content for non-English speaking Cambodians.

Though they first received an overwhelming positive response from users, things have not always been so smooth sailing for the team. The recent launch of the android version brought about several problems, where the app had issues with old Android devices.

The dedicated team however, has not given up, and is currently in the process of coming up with solutions to improve the app.

Afterwards, we were treated to a tour around Development Innovations, where we took a walk around the Innovation Lab – a wide open space that serves as a gathering place for the Cambodian tech community to learn, meet, work, and access resources.

ICT has played a huge role in helping to develop the nation, with many solutions having a social impact on everyday lives. With the ongoing advancement of ICT in the Kingdom, more solutions will definitely be developed in the long run, further improving Cambodia’s progress.