Cambodian Team Qualifies for Global Technology Contest

With just 12 weeks of coding and business training under their belts, a team of five girls from a center in Phnom Penh that provides education for economically disadvantaged students will fly to the U.S. today to compete in a global technology contest in Silicon Valley, California.

Five students from Liger Learning Center made it to the final round of this year’s Technovation Challenge, a global social entrepreneurship competition among girls aged 10 to 18 years old, with their app to promote traditional Cambodian artisans.

Five students from Liger Learning Center give a presentation at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh last month. (USAID)

The team of 11and 12-year-old girls will compete against 11 other teams drawn from a pool of 11,000 applicants worldwide.

“We want to show the potential of girls, and we want the world to know that Cambodian girls can also do technology,” said Yos Serei Sabda, 12, one of the team members.

Their mobile app, dubbed Cambodia Identity Product, aims to help local artisans by offering a tech-savvy solution to earn more income and move out of poverty, said Lorn Dara Soucheng, another 12-year-old team member.

The app, which is already available in the Google Play store, shows pictures and descriptions of Cambodian handicrafts such as straw hats and checkered krama that can be purchased online via Cambodian mobile banking interfaces. By introducing low-income artisans to an online market, the idea is that it will expand their customer base and boost their business potential.

After the competition, the girls said, they want to develop their app for iOS and advertise it on an international scale.

Tes Putthira, the team’s mentor, said the girls, who are all in seventh grade, had only simple computer skills before entering the competition’s 12-week training program to develop the app and learn to pitch the idea.

“Through this opportunity, they have become involved with technology but they also learned about business too,” she said. “It not only helps develop their creativity but also their implementation.”

Morakot Technology’s co-founder and CEO Khuon Soporth, the developer of a local mobile banking app, lauded the team’s work and their achievements in a male-dominated field.

“Technology has no gender division…. We want everyone to become involved in technology and those gender barriers shall diminish,” he said.

But for now, the team, which has already won a $5,000 cash prize for making it so far, is focused on this week’s competition.

“We expect to bring that trophy home,” Soucheng said.

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