Cambodia Investment Review

Rising Giants e97: Siriwat Chhem on Cambodia’s Leap into the Digital Economy and AI Adoption

Rising Giants e97: Siriwat Chhem on Cambodia’s Leap into the Digital Economy and AI Adoption

Cambodia Investment Review

In episode 97 of the Rising Giants podcast Siriwat Chhem, Startup Advisor and Director of the Centre for Inclusive Digital Economy, at the Asian Vision Institute shared his insights on various subjects including the digital economy, AI, technology adoption in Cambodia, and his unique educational approach.

As a Cambodian, but global citizen, Siriwat has lived and worked around the world, experiencing technology’s progression firsthand. He described his time in Shenzhen, China’s Silicon Valley, as a turning point where he started to understand how technology can translate into daily life for consumers.

Read more: Rising Giants e96: Socheata Bun on Key Trends Impacting Digital Influencers in Cambodia & The Challenges Faced by Women Entrepreneurs

He said, “I reflected on the emerging technologies in the world, which led me to the booming area of Artificial Intelligence. I was lucky enough to find a non-technical master’s program to better understand AI from the  business perspective.”

Drawn To Cambodia’s High Energy and Economic Development

Four years ago, Siriwat was drawn to Cambodia’s high energy and economic development, leading to his current role with the Asian Vision Institute (AVI). This independent think tank in Phnom Penh aims to promote inclusive and sustainable societies in Asia.

Discussing his tenure at the Centre for Inclusive Digital Economy (CIDE) at AVI, Siriwat highlighted that they started “from practically nothing” but have now published over 75 papers and two books on “Cambodia in Cyberspace” and “Cambodia’s Emergent Cyberdiplomacy”. “I am proud to share that we have also developed capacity building programs for non-technical individuals to understand how digital skills can be implemented,” he said, also mentioning the focus on women in the digital startup space.

Podcast hosts Max and Dom asked about Cambodia’s adoption of new technology, to which Siriwat identified two major factors: the Kingdom’s very young population and relatively affordable mobile data rates. “Telegram is hugely popular, followed by newer social media entrants like Tik Tok. Mobile banking apps have revolutionized digital payments – so Cambodia has adopted many digital trends into new lifestyles,” he stated.

Comparing Cambodia to countries like Italy, Max and Dom wondered about the benefit of Cambodia being able to leapfrog those reliant on old technologies. Siriwat emphasized the need for Cambodia to take calculated risks while maintaining guardrails. He said, “Going fast is great, but we do have to be careful of the implications that they would entail in the future.”

Consider Algorithm Bias and Use This Tool Ethically

From the educational perspective, Siriwat expressed that AI technology such as ChatGPT has been very impactful. “What has become revolutionary is that AI tech can now be easily accessed, controlled, and utilized in real-world benefits. We need to consider algorithm bias and use this tool ethically,” he explained.

Read more: Leveraging AI for Better Productivity: AmCham’s Tech Tuesday Brings Together Experts to Discuss the Future of Work in Cambodia

When asked about the AI landscape in Cambodia, Siriwat praised the various ministries for trying to properly understand AI implementation from a localization perspective. He also highlighted that the AI Forum is planning further AI events to continue building the ecosystem in Cambodia.

Discussing the differences between Cambodia and global AI trends, Siriwat pinpointed the lack of historical and generally recorded data as well as its validity in Cambodia. “Cambodia really needs to invest in increasing data infrastructure, which takes time and technical expertise,” he emphasized.

Talking about sectors impacted by AI, Siriwat identified agriculture, manufacturing, financial service sector, supply chains, and logistics as areas ripe for strategic AI use. He also shared his insights on assisting Cambodian startups with AI implementation, emphasizing understanding the background and focusing on the core business.

Importance Of Combining Technical and Soft Skills Together

Regarding education, Siriwat stressed the importance of combining technical and soft skills together. He also delved into the challenges of scalability in startups, saying, “Scalability is all about remaining relevant. You need to rely on experienced mentors and truly understand the local market conditions.”

Discussing business opportunities in Cambodia, Siriwat encouraged focusing on emerging sectors like health and education with simplistic and practical cost-effective tech solutions.

Finally, reflecting on his mentors and influencers, Siriwat shared his philosophy of stoicism and his favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius. When asked about the relationship between humans and robots, he philosophically concluded, “AI will not replace humans, but humans that use AI, will replace humans that don’t”

Siriwat’s articulate insights into Cambodia’s rapidly evolving technology landscape, coupled with his thought-provoking philosophical reflections, offered a compelling glimpse into the country’s bright digital future.

His multifaceted journey, both as a tech educator and an entrepreneur, stands as a testimony to the potential that technology and AI hold for Cambodia and beyond. His visionary thoughts and grounded approach are an inspiration to technology enthusiasts and entrepreneurs alike.

Listen to the full episode here.

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