The government has launched a 15-year policy framework for the Kingdom’s evolving digital socioeconomic environment to pave the way for a thriving digital economy, as a new engine of economic growth.
The Cambodia Digital Economy and Social Policy Framework 2021-2035 is expected to inject fresh momentum into the Kingdom’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector and calibrate the pace of its development to leapfrog into the digital era, as a promising new source of opportunities to boost productivity, efficiency and economic competitiveness.
The policy framework will have key economic benefits, the government said, listing job creation; skills development; an improved investment climate; trade and business activity boosts; links in regional and global production and value chains; and more efficient public service delivery as examples.
Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth said the framework sets out a vision of “building a vibrant digital economy and society to foster new economic growth and promote social welfare based on the normalisation of the ‘new normal’”.
He emphasised that the vision must be achieved by 2035, in accordance with three principles – “building a digital foundation”, “digital capture” and “digital transformation”.
“In the context of the Covid-19 crisis, the Cambodia Digital Economy and Social Policy Framework 2021-2035 will be an integral part of the post-Covid-19 economic recovery planning framework, covering the construction of digital infrastructure, attracting domestic and foreign investment, promoting new start-ups, increasing productivity and promoting economic competitiveness,” Pornmoniroth said.
Socheat Bin, Founding Advisor of healthtech startup Peth Yoeung and Country Manager of Cambodia Singapore mobile healthtech e-Health MyCLNQ, told The Post that the framework is one of the government’s “right strategies” to revive the economy after the Covid-19 shock.
He said Cambodia appears to lag behind its ASEAN peers in the field of technology, but downplayed the divide as an opportunity for the Kingdom to bolster its capacity and catch up.
“We need to strengthen our ability, to increase technology innovation, so that the economic and business communities can keep up with the new technological era.
“The government needs to have additional mechanisms to support all technological initiatives – they will provide business solutions … [and] help businesses in the health sector – public and private – provide services and sustain business,” he said.
The framework focuses on five major priorities: two foundations – developing digital infrastructure; and fostering digital trust and confidence, as well as three pillars – creating digital citizens; building the digital government; and promoting digital businesses.
Mak Chamroeun, co-founder of local e-commerce platform Smile Shop, said the government’s focus on building a digital economy was “the right starting point”, as it would underpin a swift economic recovery after the Covid-19 situation is brought under control.
“We have the right digital and economic policies that’ll make it easier for people to come up with business ideas,” he said.
He opined that new tax breaks for the digital sector could lead to significant strides for the Kingdom in the process of commercialisation of innovative, technology-related businesses.
“Some start-ups may face tax when they register, or other tax exemptions may not be 100 per cent for them. If the government has a tax exemption policy in place for digital and e-commerce businesses, within three to five years it’d encourage strong investment in the sector,” Chamroeun said.
Quoted in the framework, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the document sets out a long-term vision for developing the digital socioeconomic fabric, covering all players of society – the state, citizens and business community – to encourage new economic growth and promote social welfare, against the backdrop of the “new normal”.
The prime minister said Cambodia’s digital transformation is to capture and maximise the benefits of advances in ICT as well as digital technology to increase productivity and economic efficiency in the Kingdom.
“Cambodia must strive to achieve a digital transformation at all costs in order to steadily transition its economy and society to a higher level of development,” he said.