When you think technology, you might not think of Cambodia. But this might very well change in the future. I had the opportunity to visit several cities within Cambodia last week.Â Being a network engineer and interested in technology advancements in emerging countries, I decided to spend some time investigating the current economic and technological environment.Â I came away fairly optimistic thatÂ Cambodia might be the next Asian country to experience a technology boom.Â Here are my findings.
As far as current technology in Cambodia, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.Â The country as whole is still very poor compared to many other SE Asian countries including Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.Â In fact, the only other country that has a lower per capita GDP is Myanmar (Burma).Â In one market, I saw a shop that was gutting and repairing 10 year old tube televisions.Â This is a trade that I have not seen for at least 15 years.Â Also, there seem to be frequent power outages throughout the region.Â The outages did not last long but could prove to be disruptive for prospective businesses looking to invest in the area.
That being said, when I further explored Phnom Penh, the capitol city of Cambodia, I was surprised with the amount singage that promoted Internet technologies.Â It would seem that in the capitol and other large cities that I visited, high-speed Internet was readily available at many hotels, coffee shops and even gas stations.
In addition, the cellular network within Cambodia is well developed, at least in the locations I visited.Â A company called Cellcard has built-out a 3G network in Cambodia’s “key cities”.Â When outside these cities, 2G Edge service blankets the country in most cases.Â In this regard, Cambodia is ahead of providing 3G services compared to neighboring Thailand who have been stuck in a political battle for years regarding the licensing of 3G frequencies.
Economically, while the vast majority of Cambodians are very poor, there has been recent investments from neighboring countries including China to develop factories for the manufacturing of electronics.Â I saw this first hand when looking at a counterfeit iPhone 4G for sale at one of the local markets.Â While it didn’t look exactly like the real iPhone 4, it wasn’t a bad effort. It even had front and rear facing cameras. And it came in white which is something Apple seems to still be struggling with! The phone’s manual was written in Cambodian as opposed to Chinese or Laos.Â This typically means that the device was designed and made in Cambodia.Â It was a fairly sophisticated piece of technology so expect to see more and more electronics stamped with “Made in Cambodia” in the coming years.
Another key economic factor that may be in Cambodia’s favor is the fact they they rely heavily on the US dollar.Â While the country has their own currency, the Reil, it very much is tied to the dollar and is actually the preferred currency all over the country.Â Because the dollar is weak compared to other Asian currencies, investments in Cambodia are becoming highly attractive.
One additional economic advantage has recently been found buried near some of Cambodia’s ancient temples.Â In 2005, vast oil and natural gas deposits were discovered.Â Extraction is expected to begin next year which will give the country a much needed cash infusion.Â More money means more investments.
Cambodia still has a long way to go to become a technological powerhouse.Â The good news is that they have many things going for them both technologically and economically.Â But don’t just take my word for it.Â Cisco Systems also sees Cambodia as a growth market for technology.Â Just last month Cisco announced that they will be starting the Cisco Network Academy Program at a Technical University.Â Clearly, Cisco sees the future need for highly skilled network engineers in the very near future.
Article first published as A Technology Boom in Cambodia? on Technorati.