Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank and congratulate HE SUN Chanthol, Senior Minister, Minister Ministry Public Works & Transport, and Permanent Vice Chair of the National Logistics Council and the partners to organize such an important event. Looking at the themes that we will cover and the impressive palette of speakers, this event could not have been timelier. 

I want to start by citing four numbers: 50, 200, 140, and 130

Fifty:  Last year, Southeast Asian e-commerce was worth $50 billion according to a Google Temasek report. 

Two hundred:  By 2025, Southeast Asia’s internet economy is predicted to exceed US$200 billion by 2025. Growth will be driven by online travel, ecommerce and online media.

One hundred forty:  Do you know that Southeast Asian consumers spend an average of 140 minutes every month on the each of the region’s two leading local ecommerce sites [Lazada and Tokopedia]. If you compare, US consumers spend only an average of 80 minutes per month browsing their country’s top e-commerce site – Amazon. From now until 2025, the Google predicts e-commerce to see the largest growth of any sector, expanding by around eight times its current value to hit US$88.1 billion.

One hundred thirty: Currently, in Cambodia, we have a 130 percent mobile phone penetration and rapid growth in Internet users. Coupled with country’s nascent e-commerce sector, this could be key to driving the economy forward. 

The numbers are explosive and demonstrate that the region, particularly Cambodia, is experiencing a digital dividend. Meaning, the digital divide is shrinking and broader development benefits from using new technologies are growing. This pace of growth means that the world around us is changing faster than any point during our lifetimes. 

Technology has created new sectors, improved productivity across the economy, including for women and young people. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, together with NGOs, such as STEM Cambodia, is already working to re-invigorate the interest of Cambodia’s young people, with a focus on young women, in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics by developing a passion for STEM careers at a young age. 

E-trade and digital innovation are already transforming the way Cambodians commute, eat, and shop. Companies like PassApp, CamGo, and Grab all offer convenient ride-hailing services through easy-to-use mobile apps. Third party logistics providers are delivering cosmetics, medicine, clothes, electronics and household products to an increasingly tech-savvy population. 

With the explosive growth of the digital economy, policies need to adapt quickly and anticipate how it can help Cambodia harness e-commerce for sustainable development.  It will be critical for Cambodia to embrace technology and the digital revolution as a way to leapfrog 20th century challenges – of pollution, inequality, marginalization.   That is, to balance productivity and competitiveness for a fairer and more environmentally sustainable growth.

For the UN, we believe that technology can be harnessed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, e-commerce provides not only opportunities but solutions to many of our most pressing challenges. 

Gender Equality: E-commerce and various digital applications can be leveraged to promote the empowerment of women as entrepreneurs and business leaders (Goal 5.b). And we’re already making strides. Just this week, more than 70 young women from Myanmar, Laos PDR, Cambodia, and Viet Nam gathered in Phnom Penh to gather ideas and solutions to tackle genderinequality in the digital era. The winning team aims to create a suite of solutions through its TellmeApp that will address workplace safety and report directly and anonymously to police and local authorities for cases of sexual harassment and violence against women.

Decent Work and Economic Growth: Through the ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative, e-commerce and e-trade could support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of SMEs, (Goal 8.3). E-commerce will do for women in the 4th Industrial revolution what electricity did for women in the second by not only providing decent work, but freeing up their time. For instance, Nham 24, an online food delivery service, not only connects local venders to a wider market but their services actually free-up the time of women, enabling them to invest more time in their businesses or careers.

Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Digital solutions can be leveraged to increase access of such enterprises, in Cambodia, to financial services and markets and enable their integration into value chains (Goal 9.3). Cashless transactions through mobile applications like AliPay, PiPay, and Wing bring those previously without access to bank accounts to transact in the digital economy.

Cambodia has made significant strides in improving its cross-border procedures. Measures have been taken to improve trade facilitation and competitiveness within the Kingdom’s customs branches and offices most notably the introduction of the Automated Systems for Customs Data, the largest technical cooperation programme of the UN Conference on Trade and Development. But, there continues to be room for improvement, especially as Cambodia vows to improve integration in regional and global value chains. 

Excellencies, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Before I close, let me give you another figure.  Three hundred thirty.  By the end of this year, ASEAN will be home to 330 million active internet users.  And it is growing by 13 percent since 2015.  How can we ensure that Cambodia is a part of this rapid growth and positioned to reap its rewards?

The discussion today is a great opportunity for us to continue to deepen our understanding of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the world of work and of trade and commerce at all levels—international, regional, national and local. What are the challenges and opportunities that Cambodia face in this era of rapid technological change? We need to identify strategies that will unlock the potential for all people in Cambodia, particularly for women, so they may benefit from and contribute to achieving sustainable development in the era of Industry 4.0. 

To make e-commerce a vehicle for sustainable development we literally need to connect the dots [and the bytes]. A totally different mindset is needed to unlock investments and create partnerships to accelerate e-trade development in Cambodia. 

I believe that this forum, with the involvement of such an impressive group of speakers and participants from the across region, offers a unique opportunity to showcase how regionalintegration, technologies and innovations have created new development opportunities for advancing cross-border trade in Cambodia.

I would like to close by expressing my sincere thanks to His Excellency the Senior Minister of Public Works and Transport for your leadership in the area of domestic and cross-border trade logistics 

I would like to thank the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the funding support that made this work and forum. 

At UNDP, we are fully committed to build capabilities required and support the creation of an ecosystem for e-commerce to achieve a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable Cambodia. Let us all work together to ensure that the digital economy brings inclusive and sustainable development to Cambodia.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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