Kicking off October was the Ministry of Commerce workshop series held at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC). In the morning on the 1st of October, about 2,000 people gathered at the hall for a talk entitled “The Role of Innovation In The Digital Economy”. Many students were present at the event, to learn more about how Cambodia can help build the Worldwide Web.
Before that, H.E. Sun Chanthol, Senior Minister, Minister of Commerce, gave an update on reforms taken by the Ministry of Commerce.
1. Eliminate the Certificate of Origin for any country that does not need reference. In order to export any product to other country, reference is needed to confirm the origin of that product. To make the CO, we need a lot of time to process the document, therefore the ministry has decided to eliminate the C.O with some countries to save time.
2. Create a temporary system by entering all information through the internet (in order to save time). Create an online payment system (e.g. PayPal, Visa).
3. Commercial registration can be done online. This documentation system is extremely simple to use. Just by filling out the online form, you can check whether the name you want to use for your business has already been registered. The payment for registration and tax can be settled by online payment.
4. Create a Research and Development department to train private sectors in English, Computer skills and more. Also, to provide any useful information to said sectors such as imparting knowledge about market trends to farmers so they can plant crops to meet the market demand.
Deafening applause followed H.E. Sun Chanthol’s speech, and he handed the time over to Mr. Mike Nelson, Vice President, Communications, Google Asia-Pacific. An engineer turned journalist, he tells of the difference in competition as a journalist years ago and on the Internet now.
Mike compares the two eras as Scarcity vs. Abundance. In the past, journalists like him had to fight for jobs, and publishers were the ones determining their success. Now, anyone can be a journalist online, and readers determine their success.
The Internet is for everyone, and is not owned by any particular person. “You own as much of the Internet as me, as much as Google, Facebook.” However, Mike noted someone in the audience, the very man who brought the Internet to Cambodia (back in 1994) – Norbert Klein. The internet penetration in Cambodia now is at 10%, which may seem a small number but Mike thinks differently. He mentioned that when huge applications like WhatsApp and Line first started, they similarly had a penetration of 10%.
One thing that Mike repeatedly emphasised on was the need for more people in Cambodia to create content on the Internet. That will help Cambodia’s online presence grow, with more people participating in sharing content.
Cambodia is continually getting put on the map (literally). Google also has several special collections of tourist place such as Angkor Wat. Mike shared that there were some concerns initially raised about whether it would affect tourism, where people would be content just viewing the amazing 360o images online. He reasoned that looking at pictures of food when you are hungry does not make you any less hungry. Therefore, seeing the collection would only create a desire to visit those places.
Mike shared about the Android One smartphones that Google launched two weeks ago in India. He describes it as “the best smartphone for the most affordable price”. It was designed for the market in Asia, and costs a low $100. Some of the capabilities it has includes dual-sim and FM radio.
As to why he decided to come to Asia, Mike asserts that Asia is the place to be.