US software giant Microsoft has recently stepped up its presence in Cambodia. The Post’s Matthieu de Gaudemar spoke to Michelle Simmons, general manager for Southeast Asia New Markets at Microsoft Asia Pacific, about how one of the world’s biggest companies views the Kingdom’s technological potential.
What is your view of Cambodia’s technology potential?
Southeast Asia is a new market and Cambodia is one of the fastest growing markets in the region. Our strategy in the country is grounded in the reality that it is a mobile cloud-based world. Users leverage the cloud in order to optimise performance and Microsoft can play a pivotal role in bringing that technology to Cambodia.
The private sector and the government need to better use technology in society and the market size is very large for that. Cambodia has a very young population which is developing skills and building a strong ICT ecosystem to leverage tech.
Can Cambodia compete with the region’s more developed IT markets?
ICT skills can enable economic growth and Cambodia is not exempt from that. I think that Cambodia has as much potential as any country to not just catch up to the region’s more developed tech economies, but also to leapfrog those countries by embracing digital transformation and cloud technologies. It is certainly an interesting opportunity for investing.
What is Microsoft’s involvement in Cambodia?
We are looking to assist the government to improve transparency and bring more services to more of the population in areas such as health care, education, and better access to government services like taxes.
We also focus on helping commercial customers to compete on a global scale through technology, which is essential to make businesses become more digitised. Cambodia is no different than other markets for cloud-based services and there is certainly an opportunity in Cambodia to leverage the cloud and technology because of the very high growth of internet usage in the country. In fact, it has the highest internet usage growth in the region and consumers are becoming better equipped to use the internet for individual and commercial usage.
We recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce, formalising our commitment with the Cambodia government to use trusted technology to grow the economy and improve trade and development. The MoU will cover education campaigns on cybersecurity and malware threats, and will see Microsoft working with the Ministry of Commerce on joint education campaigns to raise awareness on cybersecurity and malware threats as well as the dangers from the use of pirated software.
How big of a problem is software privacy here and in the region?
Usage of nongenuine, including both low-end pirated and high-end counterfeit software, continues to be a major contributing factor to cybersecurity risks. With the rapid rise of cybercrime attacks, leading to data theft, financial losses and disruptions, the need to have a protected IT environment is paramount in terms of cybersecurity fundamentals. About six out of 10 computers in Asia Pacific are running unprotected, nongenuine software; and in ASEAN, this figure could be as high as close to seven or eight computers out of 10 computers – the risk is clear and present.
It is our general assessment that unlicensed software is more prevalent in consumers and small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) due to a lack of IT hygiene and sensitisation. However, corporations also face unlicensed software issues due to their large IT usage.
What challenges remain for the greater adoption of technological solutions in Cambodia?
The Ministry of Commerce needs to address cybersecurity skills and intellectual property rights to better guarantee technological growth and progress. The country still has issues of cybersecurity and there is a high malware perpetuation across the whole of Southeast Asia as a result of unlicensed software. This puts businesses at risk from a security point of view.
In Cambodia and the region, there is a perception that many emerging markets are not developed enough for tech products and that is not true. Microsoft is helping implement ERP (enterprise resource planning) solutions to use data to make businesses more competitive as well as helping the banking sector enhance it services through better tech integration.
Our recently announced partnership with the Cambodia government involves training local talent, as well raising awareness over cybersecurity and malware threats. This reflects our commitment towards empowering businesses and organisations to achieve more through technology and receive all the benefits it offers.