Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen, at the 2019 Cambodia Outlook Conference: Partnership between Cambodia Development Research Institute (CDRI) and G Gear under the Theme: “Digital Transformation Towards Industry 4.0” [Unofficial Translation]


Samdech, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

Today, I am delighted to join the opening of Cambodia Outlook Conference 2019 under the theme of “Digital Transformation towards Industry 4.0”. This is the 13th time for me to join this important annual conference.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to United Nation Development Program (UNDP) for bringing the Artificial Intelligent-Robot Sophia to this conference to display the development of Digital Technology.

On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I also would like to express my appreciation to Cambodia Development Research Institute (CDRI) and G Gear on the new partnership to continue organizing this important event. I would also like to welcome the management of ministries-institutions, local and international experts, government officials as well as representatives of development partners, NGOs and private sector here in today’s conference.

I recall that last year in this conference, we exchanged ideas and views about science and technological development as the foundation for new development strategy as well as vision and long-term goal for Cambodia in 2030 and beyond. At that time, I also emphasized the need to promote Digital Economy in Cambodia in order to seize the opportunities and prepare to cope with the impact of Industry 4.0.

Based on the warm welcome note with clear message of Artificial Intelligent— Robot Sophia— to me a few moments ago on “Digital Transformation Towards Industry 4.0” and “Forging a Close Partnership in Digital Transformation in Cambodia”, it bears a strong testimony of the progress of digital technology, which has provided the benefits as follows:

1st.       Digital technology can drive growth and efficiency. Things such as smart phonecloud computingroboticsblock chain and internet of things have been creating great possibilities for improving people-to-people connectivity, creating new startups with new ideas, facilitating trades, reducing market barriers, creating opportunities for innovative ideas and entrepreneurial activities.

2nd.      Digital technology can improve public sector capacity for the government, increase accountability and transparency in local service delivery and assist government at all levels to reach more people. At the same time, it could also strengthen cooperation, partnership and innovation within ministry and inter-ministries and other relevant institutions across the country.

Along with those positive impacts, Digital Technology also brings about negative ones as well such as: 1. Robots are replacing labor forces, which will lead to unemployment, 2. Greater needs for higher skills in order align with the advancement of ICT, 3. Rising inequality because of uneven opportunities in getting knowledge and technology and 4.Progress of digital technology will increase vulnerabilities to cybercrimes or ICT-related crimes that threaten national securities or social safety.

[Start of Extempore Comments]

On this point, we have seen that there are both advantages and disadvantages and they are great challenges for us in the new era. If everything were to be replaced by robots, what sort of unemployment issues would we be facing? Another concern has been that certain crimes caused by technology. We are working to draw interests from it but we also must figure out how to manage it. That would include social issues caused by unemployment as a consequence of robotic takeover. I have brought this matter up at Davos and Hanoi, and I am sure there will be more to talk about challenges arisen from advanced technology in other places.

[End of Extempore Comments]

Currently, Digital Technology has been popular globally while Cambodia’s economy is growing in all sectors with the economic growth of 7.5% in 2018. At the same time, Cambodia has experienced economic structural transformation—from heavily agriculture-based economy to industry and service-based economy. Therefore, to seize the full benefits from Digital Economy, Cambodia needs to put more efforts in order to promote strong and high economic growth for the long-term.

In this connection, in early 2019 I instructed the Supreme National Economic Council to establish a Working Group to formulate Digital Economy Policy Framework with the aim to seize the opportunities arising from science and technology for socio-economic development, which focuses on three key aspects namely: 1. building infrastructure supporting digital sector, developing e-payment system and logistics network, 2. creating digital platform and developing ecosystem and 3. promoting digitalization of the government, entrepreneurship, digital literacy, and open data.

Therefore, in order to ensure that Industrial Revolution 4.0, which is the current development of science and technology, provides benefits to socio-economic development in sustainable and inclusive manner, I would like to highlight a number of initiatives and priorities as follows:

1st. Developing and implementing full and comprehensive digital government: this is a prerequisite for developing digital economy; on one hand it will enhance the efficiency of public service delivery in local areas with accountability and transparency, and on the other hand it plays a role as enabler through the development and implementation of key digital tools such as: digital addressdigital signature and digital ID in order to create more opportunities for the private sector and entrepreneurs to innovate businesses.

2nd. Promoting investment on backbone infrastructure: to continue building backbone infrastructure such as fiber optic, submarine cable, last mile connection to households and businesses and data center to make the internet fast, affordable and accessible country-wide.

3rd. Maximizing the benefits from Industrial Revolution 4.0: human resource development is indispensable. Meanwhile, the Government will continue to improve quality of education, promote STEM, to promote skill training and R&D.

4th. Formulating and implementing relevant policies, legal regulations and standards: digital security is an essential element in formulating long-term strategic framework. Cambodia will develop legal frameworks and regulations for managing data securitydata privacy and cyber security, protecting and storing confidential information, trading and electronic payments and other regulations to protect consumers.

5th. Enhancing development of ecology: to promote startups in Digital Sector, which is the starting point in promoting ICT through formulating a package of comprehensive policy by considering technology, financial resource, incentive, training, etc. In addition, to support startups in Digital Sector entrepreneurship fund will be established with USD 5 million dollars fund per annum to support the businesses in terms of financing, technique, marketing, production, training and consultation for SMEs.

Industrial Revolution 4.0, which is the current development of science and technology, is becoming an important catalyst for socio-economic development in Cambodia. I hope that this conference will actively discuss about opportunities, challenges and counter-measures to the impacts stemming from Industrial Revolution 4.0 so that we can jointly address with the spirit to contribute to Cambodia’s socio-economic development for now and in the future.

[Start of Extempore Comments]

Before ending this speech, I wish to bring this issue about CDRI land and location for everyone to be aware of. Just months ago there had been proposal to either remove CDRI to a new place in exchange for private ownership of the land or to build a new building where one part is for CDRI and another for private sector. I have denied the proposal. I made it clear that the land where CDRI has been must not be given to anyone besides keeping here for research works. In 1990, it is a long history, Ms Eva (Mysliwiec) worked closely with HE Chea Chanto to create this think tank.

It has now been 29 years. If the buildings here were to fall down, I would lead mobilization of resources to rebuild it for the sake of the institute’s works. I have considered this institute as one of my children. I would not allow anyone to propose initiative of swapping this land […] we have in the past allowed ministries to work with private sectors to exchange land that were usually small in the city to build a bigger ones and we now have rather large working spaces already […]

Creating a think tank is not at all a new thing for Hun Sen. I was the first to come to this place thanks to efforts made by Eva Mysliwiec and HE Chea Chanto (then Minister of Planning). Later, Eva left Cambodia to go back to Mali, a country where she worked before coming to Cambodia […] in Mali, Eva and I have worked together to build a school in Bamako. Unfortunately, there was a demonstration to close down the school. I hope it will reopen […]

Yesterday I talked about the many standards (the world we are living in has). I did not mean to send a message to anyone. I have made it clear that the concern of others is not a political line or law for Cambodia to implement. Cambodia needs to have its own laws. We must have our ways to implement them. Every country must have their particularities and if we were to recognize this fact why they do not think that Cambodia is also entitled to that fact? In the 20th century, the Pol Pot’s genocide took place in Cambodia. It was a particular case. Anyone admitted that? If they do recognize that in Cambodia or recognize issue in Myanmar, or so and so in other countries, they should have agreed to the context that Cambodia has been in and through.

I may have your attention that when we first came (to Phnom Penh after the liberation) the seventy people I met were mostly women and children. There were no men. Many of them died (under Pol Pot’s regime). Many would not dare live in big buildings. For state institutions, some had occupied flats. Only the Ministry of Finance had chosen a rather neat building. The Ministry of National Defense has picked the building they are in today. As for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (that was under my leadership) I have chosen the former and current Buddhist University. As for other institutions, such as agriculture, under Neo Samom, they picked a house that was not far from his home because there were just a dozen of us in each ministry. Later, we allowed those ministries with office space constraint to exchange their lots and locations with the private companies […]

Let me reaffirm that I do not allow swapping land of CDRI to happen. No matter how many managers would come along, we must keep it as here. If we are in short of working space, we may know down a building […] I will gather resources from charitable persons with donation to build larger one […] We Ms Eva, HE Chea Chanto and I have this institute established for nearly thirty years now. We are throwing conferences once a year to share our research finding and to suggest policy making […]

I have sent a message that there was no one standard in the world. However, there must be respect to justice and principle. One country, one principle. There is no one standard for all. Industry 4.0 has one standard. Robot Sophia speaks a set of programed languages but she will not be able to do more than that. We may adapt it to needs of a particular country. We may have one for countries with mountainous terrain. We may have one for a country that has its terrain covered with mountains and water. There must be different thinking and calculations for different countries with different particularities. It is not correct for a country to force another to implement the former’s rules. You eat bread and I eat rice. We cannot be the same […] I hope we can have a better understanding and continue our journey together, especially we can start with something we have agreed upon – scientific and technological development, to narrow down differences in thoughts […]

[End of Extempore Comments]

Finally, with the declaration of the opening of this Cambodia Outlook Conference 2019 under the theme of “Digital Transformation Towards Industry 4.0”, I wish the conference great success and fruitful outcomes and I also would like wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen and the Conference happiness, prosperity and success in all endeavors.

Thank You!