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US Science Envoy Sees Tech Potential in Students

U.S. Science Envoy Dr. Geraldine Richmond in Cambodia as part of a trip in Southeast Asia in support of President Obama’s initiative to strengthen science and education in Southeast Asia. (Courtesy of US Embassy Phnom Penh)

Cambodia has much potential in the growth of science and technology, particularly given the motivation of young students, a US official says.

In a visit to Cambodia last week, Geraldine Richmond, the US science envoy to Southeast Asia, told VOA Khmer she was surprised to see how much passion and talent young Cambodian students have in developing technology, particularly in the design of computer apps.

During her six-day visit, which ended Sunday, Richmond gave a number of lectures on science and history to students in universities in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kampong Cham and Siem Reap.

She encouraged the government to build more skills in the technology and telecom sectors, in order to attract more investment.

“What Cambodia needs right now is the technical workforces that can atract companies that want to be here to raise the economy,” she said. “That is not necessarily to the PhD level, but it is those people, who get out of [vocational-technical] school, get out of colleges in engineering, that can go directly to the workforce.”

Otherwise, countries can be taken by surprise when jobs do come. Vietnam, for example, lacked thousands of technology workers when the American computer company Intel opened there in 2006, she said.

Cambodia should embrace information and communications technology education from high school on, to encourage more interest in more students, she said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the administration has a vision to develop the ICT sector. “Our hope is that America will sincerely help the countries in the lower Mekong region to fill-in technological gaps and have similar ‘e-systems,’ such as those being used in developed countries,” he said.