COVID has spurred the Kingdom to further catalyse action to improve its digital readiness and resilience to future crises, and create opportunities for Cambodians and local communities to seize the advantages of digitalisation, pundits said at a seminar on December 7.
The live webinar on “Cambodia and the Fourth Industrial Revolution [4IR]: Potential Avenues for Supporting Cambodia Transition to this new Industrial Model by 2030” will be held from December 7-8.
Speaking at the event, Asian Development Bank (ADB) acting country director Anthony Robert Gill noted that Cambodia has made substantial socio-economic gains over the last few decades, but that the 4IR and economic fallout from Covid poses a new set of challenges.
“Embedded within these challenges is a wealth of opportunities to grow and deliver further. It is imperative that we discuss concrete actions for managing the recent disruptions, and to maximise the benefits of digital and technological transformations for Cambodia.
“The key path [to] success here in Cambodia – including adapting to and adopting new technologies and digitalisation – is to identify the skills gaps that will happen and work to address those.
“We’re preparing a policy-based loan in trade and competitiveness which will take into account the needs of Industry 4.0,” he said, using another name for the 4IR.
He asserted that all of ADB’s projects take stock of the impact of technology and digitalisation, and seek to incorporate new technologies to prepare the Kingdom for the future.
“ADB is committed to developing a better-educated, -skilled and more resilient workforce” to meet the evolving requirements of the job market, Gill said.
UN resident coordinator in Cambodia Pauline Tamesis recommended the government adopt specific policy measures to encourage readiness for the coming era, particularly through the digital economy and society policy framework, which she termed a “promising building block” that not only addresses the challenges but also harnesses the opportunities offered by the 4IR.
“We really believe in the UN family – the Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity for the digital transformation and we’re really happy that the Cambodian government and its partners also see it that way,” she said.
Also present at the event was Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, managing director of the Directorate of Digitalisation, Technology and Agri-Business at the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
He emphasised that while the 4IR adoption started slow in Cambodia, the process of leveraging technologies during Covid has gained increasing traction towards building resilience in the Kingdom’s various economic sectors, in a trend he noted would be irreversible.
“At UNIDO, we are convinced that the 4IR paradigm will support Cambodia to build back better for socio-economic recovery and catalyse the efforts to achieve inclusive and sustainable industrial development.
“The successful passage of the digital economy and society policy framework by the government of Cambodia is a key achievement that will pave the way for enterprises to transition into the 4IR.
“UNIDO has also taken note of the adoption of the SDI roadmap by the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation. UNIDO’s commitment to support Cambodia’s transition to the 4IR will be achieved through our programme for country partnership,” he said.
Minister of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation Cham Prasidh said that if Cambodia is to become an “upper-middle income” country by 2030 and a “high-income” economy by 2050, ADB, UNIDO and other development partners must look into putting technology and innovation at the core of their respective new country programmes.
“I am convinced that the impetus to harness the potential of the digital transformation and 4IR will lead us towards a new model of growth and resiliency. The pandemic has triggered a multitude of innovative processes and policies that will enable us to adjust to learn, live and interact in the ‘new normal’,” he said.
He added that creating an ecosystem that can foster investment in digital infrastructure is key to the success of the national digital transformation process.
Prasidh stressed that the ministry “stands ready to implement, monitor and evaluate various policies such as the 2020-2030 national science, technology and innovation [STI] policy, the 2021-2035 digital economy and society policy framework, and the STI roadmap towards the year 2030”.
The ADB earlier this year published a report entitled “Reaping the benefits of Industry 4.0 through skills development in high-growth industries in Southeast Asia: insights from Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Viet Nam”.
The Metro Manila-based development lender noted in the report that while 4IR would eliminate some jobs in the Kingdom, it would also generate new labour demand.
The study estimates a positive net effect of 39 per cent for garments and two per cent for tourism in Cambodia and expects significant productivity improvements from 4IR technologies.
“However, the share of employers who believe the productivity impact of 4IR technologies may be greater than 25 per cent within five years varies by sector and country: 12 per cent for garments and 19 per cent for tourism in Cambodia,” it said.