The Asia Foundation announced a three-year partnership with telecommunications operator Smart Axiata on Monday to create a digital library of Khmer-language children’s books to be published online for free.
According to Meloney Lindbergh, country representative for the US-based Asia Foundation, the e-books will encourage literacy and promote important themes, including female empowerment.
“We would like to reinforce the message that reading is one of the pillars required to encourage a strong education,” she said at an event held in Phnom Penh yesterday.
The partnership is part of the NGO’s “Let’s Read” campaign, which has already benefitted from Smart’s sponsorship of two “hackathons”. During the hackathons, local children’s book authors, illustrators and editors gathered to create digital storybooks in Khmer.
The two events have already led to 16 children’s books published on the Let’s Read website, and Smart has committed to sponsoring six more events in the next three years.
According to Lindbergh, the upcoming events should see an additional 50 original children’s books published by Cambodian creators, as well as 50 additional titles from around Southeast Asia translated into Khmer. That would add to the more than 100 children’s books currently available on the Let’s Read website.
Smart’s Chief Financial Officer Kanishka Wickrama said that the company was dedicated to promoting education in Cambodia, and noted the telecom would “like to partner with any groups focused on improving literacy”.
“It is important to us to harness the power of technology to improve education by cultivating e-book platforms,” he said on Monday.
Im Koch, a secretary of state of the Ministry of Education, also attended the event yesterday and lauded the partnership between the technology company and NGO.
“In Cambodia, there is a lack of textbooks and it is hard to transport hard copies to the provinces,” Koch said, noting that books could get wet during the rainy season and be ruined. “So it is very important to have this digital library for educational books.”