Cambodia's Digital Economy: Women in Tech

Increasing the number of girls taking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects is a global concern, as participant rate is much lower than their boy counterparts. The reasons for this are overwhelming to do with stereotypical gender roles, with girls receiving less encouragement to take these subjects in school or being put off from joining male-dominated industries.

In ASEAN countries, such as Cambodia, women and girls already face barriers to entry in every industry, with lower participation rates across the board. For many young girls, continuing their education is not a viable option for them and therefore they don’t develop the necessary skills to join the labor market. They remain an untapped resource in fostering a stronger economy for their country.

In this blogs previous Influential Cambodian Women article for International Women’s Day this year, many of the women featured had utilized technology in their achievements. In the last few years, the amount of women who found success in tech startups has noticeably increased, with many utilizing technology to be able to set up their own business. This was in a large variety of different fields from healthcare to agriculture.

The potentially bright future for Cambodia that could result from a digital economy, is also a promising pathway for achieving more gender parity in a country that needs to include all members of society in achieving that goal.

Digital Literacy Rates

Cambodia separates itself from other ASEAN nations by having the youngest average age of the population. Decades of Civil War mean that the median age is just 25 years old. This shows in the countries Facebook activity, with over 11 million active accounts. It is worth noting that this itself is very gendered, 2/3 of those with a Facebook account are men in those findings.

Overall though, Cambodia can be said to have a low digital literacy rate in the general population. UNESCO defines digital literacy as the ability to browse, search, filter, and evaluate digital content. Many schools do not have internet access or the funds for expensive electricity in order to teach digital literacy in schools. In the adult population there is also a need for an increase in these skills to keep up with what is required by a digital economy, especially in the critical ability to evaluate online information and browsing safely.

When it comes to e-commerce and online sales, Cambodia is much less active compared to its neighbor Thailand. An important factor is that very few have access to online banking, Cambodia is very much still a cash society. This hinders the ability for business to take their services online and increase revenues and means most companies must rely on local sales.

A high percentage of the population has access to mobile phones, even in the context of the world stage. The penetration rate (number of mobile connections to a service divided by population) in Cambodia is 124%, considered some of the highest in the world. Many use mobile money accounts for busi