Recognized as one of the few young leaders in Cambodia’s IT community, Suy Channe, manages the InSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia, an NGO dedicated to using technology to address social and developmental issues in the Mekong region. Channe spoke with Post Plus about her experience and the opportunities for women in Cambodia’s technology business.
>What are some of the challenges you had to overcome to get to where you are today?
It was a life-changing experience as a university student in India. I learned to be independent while earning a master degree at the same time. It was incredible to be in a country that is more culturally conservative towards women with a tougher study system than in Cambodia and be at a college with students from 42 different countries.
I started my first job as a software programmer at a technology company in Cambodia, then followed my passion to join a social enterprise, and then at a tech NGO because I wanted to contribute to society through my work.
What is InSTEDD iLab, and what are some of the programs the NGO has been a part of to address developmental challenges?
InSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia is a locally run innovation lab focused on the sustainable design and development of technologies for social good. The goal is to help the social and technical side of the humanitarian to collaborate on health, safety and development issues.
We’ve supported public health institutions and NGOs by helping them design, develop, and improve open source technology tools that allow them to communicate and organize information. One of the most recent success stories is how our open source, voice based platform Verboice helps a wide range of NGOs. The automated voice platform has been used for information hotlines, health alerts and reminders, and mobile data collection. The beneficiaries are very diverse: new mothers, garment factory workers, informal workers, patients, and even farmers.
What is the situation for women in the IT industry in Cambodia?
The low number of women in the technology or IT industry is not only an issue in Cambodia, but in many other countries as well. One stereotype in Cambodia is that technology is not a career for women. In fact, IT is one of the highest paid jobs with flexible working hours and allows for the people to work remotely with team from around the world. More advocates and role models are needed to attract more women to the IT field.
There is more demand than supply of IT staff in Cambodia. The market is also very encouraging for women as many companies prefer to have a gender mix in their team. Cambodia needs more female leaders in the tech sector to inspire the young generation. I have no doubt that we’ll see this in the next few years.
How has the IT industry changed over the years, and how important is it to build local capacity for the betterment of the country?
Local tech focus and demand has been increasing from year to year. It is very important to build more local capacity to open up beyond Cambodia. Israel is an example of a small country that is an innovation giant. Technology is a stepping stone for a small country to reach to the world market.