Cambodia has achieved considerable economic and social progress in the last few decades, but the country does not compare well with its neighbors in terms of knowledge-based development.
Changes are underway, however, at both government—with the release of key planning documents on science and technology—and community levels. As one example, the number of internet users in Cambodia grew from 320,190 in 2010, to 6,264,902 by June 2015.1 Internet penetration still remains relatively low at 25 percent compared with the global rate of 42 percent, according to the report The Digital, Social and Mobile in APAC 2015. This report also points out that a lack of accurate and timely data reporting from developing countries such as Cambodia makes it difficult to confidently measure internet growth rates.2
Cambodia’s draft National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation was developed with input from ministries, NGOs and civil society.3 UNESCO’s Phnom Penh office helped the government to formulate the policy as part of the regional flagship programme “COMprehensive Programme to Enhance Technology, Engineering and ScieNCE Education” (COMPETENCE) in Asia.4
The draft policy outlines five strategies, involving plans for human resources, infrastructure and institutional development, encouraging research and establishing a Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation.
The Cambodia National Science and Technology Master Plan 2014-2020 was launched in October 2014 by the Ministry of Planning with support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Industrial innovation is a key focus, particularly in the areas of agriculture, primary industries, and information and communication technology (ICT).5
The Cambodian ICT Masterplan 2020 for government was also launched in 2014.6 The plan aligns with the ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2015, to focus on human resources, training and enhancing digital literacy (including for rural people), computer access of government employees, expanded ICT infrastructure, cyber security and more. Specific goals include one that 70 percent of Cambodian people are able to access the internet by 2020.
Information technology is crucial for a society to be informed and involved in a country’s development. Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth said in 2014 that Cambodia’s budget-drafting process was opaque because of a lack of technology that would allow his ministry to quickly process and share information with the public.7
The government’s plans to diversify the country’s export base from garments into agricultural processing, light manufacturing, electronics and other areas require an appropriately skilled and educated workforce. However, data from 2014 shows that fewer than 6 percent of Cambodian university students were enrolled in a science major such as biology or engineering, while 46 percent studied accounting, finance or management.8
One of the goals of the first Cambodia Science and Engineering Festival in March 2015 was to encourage more young people to take up science-based education.9
The report Cambodian IT industry: Skills for a digital economy, released in early 2017, found that 75 percent of businesses could not find the IT staff they needed.10
Some private companies—such as Japanese electronics assembler Mineabea with 7,200 employees at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone—build their own training facilities.
By one estimate, over 70 percent of research and development funding in Cambodia is financed from the NGO sector or from abroad.11 As a point of comparison, the figure for Thailand is 2.5 percent.
A 2010 study of 15 universities found that, in general, research is not perceived as a core mission of universities.12 Generally, there is little data on Cambodia’s resourcing or funding of research and experimental development.13 Most universities do not have a clear research policy with supporting institutional mechanisms to promote both the quantity and quality of faculty research. There are few well-trained researchers, low salaries, unclear career paths, and an uneven spread of research facilities. There is currently no competitive funding program for supporting scientific research.
While Cambodia is a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property, and has had patent law in place since 2003, it had struggled to process any of the 125 applications that were pending at the beginning of 2015. Patent registration has had some assistance from a Singaporean firm in order to achieve compliance for the ASEAN Economic Community deadline at the end of 2015.14 Patent applications are accepted through the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft.
Last updated: 31 January 2017
- 1. Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia. “Internet subscriptions.” Accessed 30 October 2015. http://www.trc.gov.kh/internet-subscribers/
- 2. Simon Kemp. “Digital, social & mobile in APAC in 2015.” We are social: News, 11 March 2015. Accessed 29 October 2015. http://wearesocial.net/blog/2015/03/digital-social-mobile-apac-2015/
- 3. UNESCO. “UNESCO Cambodia supports the drafting of the national policy on science, technology and innovation.” Accessed 28 August 2015. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/phnompenh/about-this-office/single-view/news/unesco_cambodia_supports_the_drafting_of_the_national_policy_on_science_technology_and_innovation-1/#.Vep43GSqqko
- 4. UNESCO. “Comprehensive program to enhance technology, engineering and science education (COMPETENCE) in Asia.” Accessed 29 October 2015. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001840/184044e.pdf
- 5. Hort Sroeu. “KOICA and MoP release Cambodia National Science & Technology Master Plan 2014-2020.” Features, 8 October 2014. Accessed 22 August 2015. http://www.koicacambodia.org/koica-and-mop-release-cambodia-national-science-technology-master-plan-2014-2020/
- 6. Korean International Cooperation Agency. “Summary on Cambodian ICT masterplan 2020.” Accessed 28 August 2015. http://www.trc.gov.kh/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Cambodian-ICT-Masterplan-2020.pdf
- 7. Kang Sothear. “Technology to blame for lack of clarity on budget, Minister says.” The Cambodia Daily, 23 December 2014. Accessed 28 August 2015. https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/technology-to-blame-for-lack-of-clarity-on-budget-minister-says-74734/
- 8. Charles Rollet. “STEM-ing the tide of business degrees.” The Phnom Penh Post, 14 March 2015. Accessed 28 August 2015. http://www.phnompenhpost.com/stem-ing-tide-business-degrees
- 9. The Development Research Forum in Cambodia. 2010. “Scoping study: Research capacities of Cambodia’s universities.” Accessed 28 August 2015. http://www.cdri.org.kh/webdata/download/sr/sr5ae.pdf
- 10. Matthieu de Gaudemar, 2017. “IT sector stumbles on skills gap”, The Phnom Penh Post, 18 January 2017.
- 11. Tim Turpin and Jose A. Magpantay. “Science, technology and innovation assessment of Cambodia.” STEPAN Update, 10(1) June 2010. Accessed 28 August 2015. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001887/188733E.pdf
- 12. The Development Research Forum in Cambodia. 2010. “Scoping study: Research capacities of Cambodia’s universities.” Accessed 28 August 2015. http://www.cdri.org.kh/webdata/download/sr/sr5ae.pdf
- 13. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. “Science, technology and innovation.” Accessed 30 October 2015. http://data.uis.unesco.org/Index.aspx?queryid=76
- 14. Dezan Shira & Associates. “Cambodia recognizes first patent application.” ASEAN briefing, 12 March 2015. Accessed 30 October 2015. http://www.aseanbriefing.com/news/2015/03/12/cambodia-recognizes-first-patent-application.html