This March, the Geeks in Cambodia will have the opportunity to attend a bunch of innovative and disruptive events in Phnom Penh!

Data, Science, Engineering, Technology, and Innovations

These aren’t the words one associates with Cambodia. But it’s worth noting that the Kingdom of Angkor once dominated the region with its cutting-edge technology in water management, and the country is rapidly catching up with its neighbors Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam in all things science, engineering, technology, innovations, and business applications of these subjects.

Over the course of three weeks in March, organizations large and small are banding together to create occasions for celebrating emergent culture of innovation in Cambodia, in three separate events.

Open Data Day (March 5, 10am-4pm, at Emerald Hub, 11th Floor of Building #36, St. 169, Khan 7 Makara, Phnom Penh)

Open Data Day is “a gathering of citizens in cities around the world to write applicationsliberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data to show support for and encourage the adoption of open data policies by the world’s local, regional and national governments”. “Open data”—information that is accessible to the public—can range from census data, data on weather, geography, health, economy and legal, and making use of these data is an important part of many business and social activities. Open Development Cambodia, whose platform of open data just launched last month, is leading the charge of organizing the day in Phnom Penh, along with Destination Justice Cambodia, a legal rights NGO.

Cambodian Science and Engineering Festival (March 9-11, at Institute of Technology of Cambodia, on Russian Boulevard)

The second annual Cambodian Science & Engineering Festival is “a national initiative to advance STEM education and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.” Allen Tan, whose work at Golden West Humanitarian Foundation in de-mining field received 2016 CES Innovation Award in the US last month, started working in 2014 toward this festival to promote STEM education in Cambodia.

Last year’s festival drew 10,000 people in three days. This year promises to be bigger and better, with demonstrations and presentations by the best Cambodian and international schools, government ministries, private companies and NGOs. It also hosts a Mini Maker Faire, where “Makers”—amateur and professional hardware hackers, makers and other tinkerers—will show off their creations. Maker Faire is a global celebration of the Maker Movement that showcases invention, creativity, and resourcefulness and it is coming to Cambodia for the first time! Expect gadgets made of 3D printed parts, drones, and other high-tech toys.

Inno Tech Festival Cambodia (March 18-19, at Institute of Technology of Cambodia)

A brand new event this year follows, called INNO TECH. A coalition of coworking spaces, innovation hubs, technology-oriented NGOs and media initiatives, Inno Tech tries to bridge the gap between private and public sectors, the techies and the rest of us, and technology enthusiasts with the tech skeptics. Akira Morita, one of the organizers, explains. “One of the ideas was to organize a large event to celebrate and showcase what everyone’s working on. Each of these spaces already have events where their members’ work is highlighted. The idea is to bring it all together, to a wider audience.” The festival hopes to connect the public, businesses, NGO’s and individuals with one another under one banner of “using technology for good,” and foster more collaboration. During the two-day festival, there will be an exhibition of 50 organizations; demonstrations and discussions in three “Open Workshop” rooms, “Connection Cafe” where you can catch up with someone or meet someone new over a delicious coffee, and “INNOTECH-a-THON,” where groups of students and professionals compete with each other building prototypes of their ideas for cash prizes.

Why all these events? Technology, STEM education, creativity and innovations—these topics are trending across the region. Cambodians, especially in urban areas, are no strangers to technology today. there are reportedly 24 million mobile phone subscriptions in Cambodia, and one third of the population has access to the internet, according to the study released last year by social media agency We Are Social, in 2015. “But there’s still some big gaps in knowledge and creativity in using the technology. We need to foster a culture of playing more with this, and trying new ideas. We hope these event will be part of the catalyzing force that transforms the culture and the country through technology,” Morita says.