Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A Trybe grows in Cambodia

A Trybe grows in Cambodia

Nadia Wong, head of makerspace Trybe, stands in front of a 3-D printer at their office in Phnom Penh.
Nadia Wong, head of makerspace Trybe, stands in front of a 3-D printer at their office in Phnom Penh. Jonathan Greig

A Trybe grows in Cambodia

Technology has invaded almost every aspect of our lives, from how we order food from restaurants to how we travel to and from work. But an overreliance on Western technology and applications has left many in the developing world eager to forge their own path and create systems as well as machines to address localised issues.

Universities across the country are trying to educate students and satisfy the need for technology that addresses problems specific to Cambodia, but a lack of funding and guidance makes it difficult to be an inventor or developer.

To address this very issue, Nadia Wong, formerly a corporate lawyer from Hong Kong, decided to create Trybe, a co-working makerspace for Cambodia’s young inventors.

“Every part of our life touches on tech, and given the youth of the population, tech excites everyone. Are we going to stay stuck in this place where our tech usage is dictated by what is given to us by more developed countries?” she said.

“I heard one member [of Trybe] complain the other day that everyone wants to do ‘the next Uber of tuk tuks’. Why don’t we take a step back from just associating with one successful thing overseas and look at how we can develop our own. If we in Cambodia want to develop our own tech, we have to think a bit deeper and try to understand our own community and the needs of those around us instead of just labeling things the ‘Uber of x’.”

Ms. Wong serves on the steering committee of the University of Puthisastra, and said the idea for Trybe sprung from her conversations with startups, entrepreneurs and students.

“One thing we all had in common was that we were struggling, whether it was with registering a company or figuring out financing or figuring out accounting systems. We’re all at different stages of the struggle, so it’s good to have an environment where we meet and talk and help each other with these things,” she said.

“Its great to provide a place of sharing that normalizes the struggle.”

When she moved to Cambodia from Hong Kong four and a half years ago, she was eager to work with students and wanted to support innovation as well as entrepreneurship. The idea for Trybe began to percolate about a year ago, and in February it officially opened. Trybe serves as a community of inventors, designers, students and entrepreneurs.

Trybe has helped a number of startup companies get off the ground, providing them with a working space, guidance, training sessions and experts eager to help young inventors. It has about 25 members and is home to five companies, including a 3-D printing service, a robotics startup and an open source system integration computer software company.

In addition to giving young inventors a space to ply their trade, Trybe runs a variety of challenges for students focusing on a number of different sectors. One of the challenges they are starting this month is “Invent for Agriculture”, a ten-week product development course for students that will feature lectures from experts, woodwork and metalwork courses, and mentorship from a famous Hong Kong inventor.

Trybe will bring them to two farms and have them think about problems that need to be addressed. They will work through the innovation and development process before creating a cardboard prototype of their design.

Trybe is eager to expand STEM courses throughout Cambodian schools and is looking into ways to create a low-cost engineering kit that schools outside of Phnom Penh can use. They are also considering expanding the idea of makerspaces to the provinces in an effort to not only create communities of inventors, builders and repairers, but also to give children a place to learn skills and test products.

Ms. Wong has placed Trybe at the intersection of technology, agriculture and education, and believes Cambodia’s young people are more than ready to take up the challenge of addressing the country’s problems through innovation.

“There is so much potential for technology in agriculture. We have an abundance of land here and really good soil, so people haven’t been pushed to innovate,” she said. “But there is so much opportunity to innovate and bring technology to agriculture.

That’s a sector of Cambodia that a lot of young people can step in to.”

MOST VIEWED

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does