The country manager for Microsoft says he wants to help Cambodia avoid “digital colonisation” by its larger neighbours by fostering and promoting rapid IT development across the country.
“We have very strong neighbours in Vietnam and Thailand,” French-born Chinese-Khmer Pily Wong says.
“Our neighbours are also progressing. If we progress more slowly than our neighbours, that’s a concern. I want to develop very rapidly.
“Because other countries have much bigger market penetration of technologies, their people are developing much more tools and content versus Cambodia.
“If the Kingdom doesn’t opt for a more pro-active approach in developing ICT, in a few years, all the young Cambodians will be using Vietnamese software, singing Korean pop songs, reading Malaysian online news and playing Chinese video games.”
Wong is also pushing for lower Internet access prices so low-income Cambodians will find it easier to embrace the advantages of the Internet and computer use.
“The key for the development of IT in Cambodia is to have much lower prices for Internet access. I think there is a lot of competition and they are on the right track.
“The key for economic development is also to have more IT users who give better productivity in all businesses.”
Wong, born in France in 1976, came to Cambodia in 2002, a time when it was “quite a tough country”.
“It wasn’t safe; there was almost no social life, not many restaurants and nothing to do.”
In the decade since then, Wong has seen Cambodia transform for the better. Now he’s helping develop Cambodia’s IT sector.
Microsoft made the Guinness Book of World Records this year when its new Kinect motion-sensing input device became the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history.
In the first two months, eight million units were sold – an average of 133,000 units a day. By March this year, 10 million Kinect sensor units, which connect to Microsoft’s XBox 360 gaming unit, had been shipped.
The Kinect device senses motion and depth through a lens, enabling users to play computer games without using a joystick.
Instead, they use their hands, arms and body movements to play. These movements are detected by the Kinect device’s sensors and transmitted into game play by the XBox 360.
In March, Microsoft bought the Internet-based telephony company Skype for $8.5 billion, and it owns a share of Facebook.
Wong sees opportunities and growth for all in Cambodia, but wants to see the IT sector develop at a more rapid pace.
When Wong returned to Cambodia in 2002, he happened to meet the local distributor for Microsoft.
“When the distributor heard Microsoft was looking to expand to Cambodia, he immediately thought of me and he proposed my candidacy to the Microsoft people.”
Microsoft was looking for someone who was used to working for big corporations and, as Wong’s family are the Cambodian dealers for Volkswagen and Mercedes vehicles, it seemed like a good fit.
After Microsoft people arrived in Cambodia and met different candidates in 2007, they chose Wong to represent Microsoft as its country manager and the agreement was signed in 2008.
“Representing Microsoft is a very big responsibility, because we are managing basically everything in relation to the corporation. We are here as an interface to bring all the product knowledge and after-sales support,” Wong says.
Microsoft has 40 to 50 IT companies working with it and partnerships with ISVs (independent software vendors) who create their own software using the Microsoft platform.
One such ISV is Web Essen-tials, an open-source development group that works to develop and enable the flourishing of e-commerce on the Internet in the Khmer language.
Even though Microsoft promotes its own proprietary software, Wong and others at Microsoft are friendly toward free, open-source software.
Wong serves as president of the ICT Business Association, an organisation with about 50 members that promotes lower prices for Internet services and rapid advancement of the local IT sector.
Microsoft provides free software to organisations that are involved in doing good works on behalf of Cambodians.
One such recipient is the French NGO and technology training center CIST, soon to be known as PNC, with receives free software for the whole campus. Microsoft also provided free software licences to the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Another Microsoft program is called Microsoft Student Partners or MSP.
“We are selecting from every university some of the best students and we appoint them as Microsoft Student Partners. We empower them with all Microsoft products for free,” Wong says, adding that Microsoft wants the student partners to be role models for their classmates.
There are 12 MSPs in Cambodia under a program called DreamSpark. Microsoft operates BizSpark, a similar program for start-up businesses that have been in existence for less than three years and have a turnover of less than US $1million; beneficiaries can download any Microsoft program free, but they have to be developers.
Microsoft has a team of six people, all locals, on Norodom Boulevard, including one technology specialist who is highly trained in all Microsoft technology and the others oriented toward helping businesses.
With regard to genuine, licensed copies of Microsoft software instead of pirated copies, Wong says that if you don’t request a genuine copy from the seller, chances are high you’ll get a pirated copy.
He says the next version of Windows will arrive next year.
“People will be able to use their computers with or without a keyboard and mouse. The start screen is very different; we will use more “Live tiles” than icons, as with live tiles, we can display more information,” Wong said.