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Youth of the week: Hok Kakada

Our student of the week will receive a $50 voucher from Boston Books. If you want to nominate a student or friend, email lift@phnompenhpost.com

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You never know what will change the course of your life. Just one day of playing with her friend’s desktop computer altered Hok Kakada’s life and started her on a path to creating a software program that will help Cambodian hospitals store data more accurately, allowing for better treatment.

The 26-year-old, who developed the program for her master’s degree thesis, said that computers were scarce when she began developing her digital skills and that the computer science sector was dominated by males and foreigners.

Determined to change this perception, Hok Kakada, who is one of a burgeoning group of women contributing to the rise of Cambodia’s IT sector, shrugged off the stereotypes and pushed ahead to get her bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2006. Because of her desire to get experience and lighten the financial burden that tuition fees put on her parents, she worked as a researcher for the New Hardware page of PC World Magazine (later known as IT City Magazine), and worked for Open Forum of Cambodia and Open Institute between 2004 and 2008.

“The first turning point in my life happened when I started to work. I became more responsible, and began to communicate better with different people,” she said in an email interview with Lift. Her eyes truly opened to the possibilities of IT when she attended meetings, workshops and conferences in Cambodia, India (2005), the USA (2006) and South Africa (2007).

In 2008 she won a scholarship to enroll in a master’s degree program in Japan. Her decision to make an open-source software called “OpenEHR based Maternity Record System for Use in Cambodia” stemmed from her reading about Cambodia’s exceptionally high maternity mortality rate, even among developing countries.

“I chose this topic because [I believe] that health information is as important as medical treatments from doctors themselves.” Hok Kakada said.

She plans to introduce a robust low-cost electronic health record system to facilitate the sharing of medical information across the country.

Upon her return to Cambodia at the end of 2010, she wishes to spend time talking to young Cambodians in rural areas about how to develop their communities, along with working with her team on implementing the software.

“Though what I have done was not a huge contribution to the world, I realized that at least I have become a good daughter and citizen by utilizing my knowledge for Cambodia’s development,” she said.

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