Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - IT business helps economy and disadvantaged

IT business helps economy and disadvantaged

IT business helps economy and disadvantaged

Call any telephone helpline in Britain - from a problem with your laptop to a query

about internet banking - and you are likely to end up speaking to someone in Bangalore.

But outsourced information technology (IT) services are not only flourishing in India.

Thanks to Digital Divide Data (DDD), a social enterprise employing disadvantaged

people in technology-related businesses, Cambodia has joined the IT outsourcing revolution.

On October 21 DDD celebrates five years of operating in Cambodia.

"This shows it is possible to do something different," said Kann Kunthy,

DDD Cambodia spokesman.

There is double cause for celebration, as 2006 is also the first year that DDD has

been profitable.

"Becoming profitable is a huge landmark and proof that our social enterprise

model is successful," said DDD chief Jeremy Hockenstein. "When we first

started DDD in Cambodia five years ago no one thought it could be done, [but] we've

been able to build an export-oriented IT sector that supports the local economy."

DDD is a unique blend of a for-profit business approach with a not-for-profit social

mission. It uses a variety of partner NGOs to identify and train landmine and polio

victims, orphans, rural migrants, and abused women in data entry, digitization, and

other IT jobs.

DDD staff earn at least three times the average wage in Cambodia, which DDD says

is $26.67 a month, and they are also offered educational scholarships, career services,

and health benefits. Moreover, the training and experience that employment at DDD

provides has enabled more than 100 DDD staff members to move on to better jobs, earning

up to $153 a month - nearly six times the national average wage.

"DDD shows that capitalism and social purpose can be conjoined," the company

quotes J P Singh, Professor of Technology and International Development at Georgetown

University, as saying.

Initially funded by grants - the technical equipment and training were provided by

DDD's NGO partners - the project has now become financially sustainable thanks to

an ever-expanding base of local and international clients, according to Hockenstein.

"We are particularly happy that our local work - surveys, databases and other

IT services - has been growing and leading to DDD's true sustainability," Hockstein

said. "It means we are not dependent on work from international clients but

local ones."

From Harvard University to Mobitel Cambodia, DDD has an impressive list of clients.

Their custom has helped ensure that some of Cambodia's poorest and most marginalized

social groups have been able to find employment in the globalized economy.

"We are working to bring the benefits of globalization to a country of people

who might otherwise be passed by these opportunities," Hockstein said.

Facilitating the participation of Cambodians in the global economy brings huge benefits

to them as individuals, and the very manner in which they are participating - IT

outsourcing - contributes to the ongoing quest to diversify the economy.

Recent healthy economic growth has had a narrow base in garment manufacture, agriculture,

and tourism. In bringing IT outsourcing in Cambodia, DDD have given the country a

means of fueling further economic growth.

"The organization has become a model for diversifying the Cambodian economy,"

reads a DDD press release.

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