Cambodian Teams Through to ‘Semi-Final’ of Tech Challenge

The Five Infinities, winner of the junior division for Technovation Cambodia 2018, pitched their business ideas on stage at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, May 20, 2018. (Courtesy of Technovation Cambodia)

The Five Infinities created a smartphone application that provides a platform for customers in the handyman business.

It took many weeks of practice before Rose Angely and her team was ready. After many long days of preparation, the team of 12 to 13-year-olds known as The Five Infinities were ready to pitch their business to more than 400 people at the Institute of Technology last month.

The Five Infinities created a smartphone application that provides a platform for customers of Angely’s father’s handyman business.

Angely gets the idea after her father complained about the disconnect between potential customers and his business, so together with some friends she started a market survey to gauge the viability of a smartphone app to bridge the gap.

The group, from the Liger Leadership Academy, was one of 12 groups pitching their innovations at the Technovation junior competition in May, which followed several weeks of training in business skills and programming.

The Five Infinities won in the category of the junior division for the National Pitch. The all-girl group is now confident they can go on to greater things.

“We have high confidence about this [idea]. Since the beginning, both the committees in the mini-pitch and the national pitch all had the same idea as our group,” said Ros, one of the team members.

Growing Interest in Technology

Heang Omuoy, Technovation Ambassador for Cambodia, said 44 groups from Cambodia submitted applications, double that of 2017.

“They see themselves as problem solvers. They know how to use this phone application to solve social issues, and how to sustain a business,” she said.

All of the submissions to the Technovation event had to have a social issue focus, with submissions ranging from health monitoring to safe migration.

A group of girl innovators participated in the National Pitch for Technovation Cambodia at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, May 20, 2018. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

This year the program also reach out of Phnom Penh’s boundary to two other provinces including Battambang and Siem Reap provinces.

Sok Sopheakmongkol, one of the judges at the national pitch event, said the program had vastly improved the girls’ business acumen and confidence.

“In their presentation, they had their techniques and skills. They showed their teamwork spirit, their understanding of technology, and understanding of business trends,” said Mongkol.

New Frontiers

Omuoy said that early exposure to technology benefits students in the long-term.

“We do not expect them to achieve everything now, but when they grow up it will be helpful for them to use the skills they have learned at Technovation,” she said.

Khin Kimhong, a fourth-year student of information technology from Siem Reap province, who volunteered as a mentor of another group, said the children learned as much in 12 weeks as she had gained from her entire undergraduate degree.

“By the second year in university, you only studied the theory. But in this program, you studied in a few months and then practice a real project,” Kimhong said.

Three other Cambodian teams were selected to compete in a semi-final round in a different global competition. If any of them are selected, they will join 10 other groups from around the world to compete at the world finals at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley.