PHNOM PENH, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's Economy and Finance Minister Aun Pornmoniroth said on Tuesday that Cambodia's digital economy remains at the nascent stage and the kingdom needs at least a decade to grow it.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a two-day workshop on "Policy and Direction of Cambodia's Digital Economy" here, Pornmoniroth said the digital economy has been gradually taking shape in the country and creating new business activities in digital payment, online entertainment and E-commerce.
"Cambodia may need to spend the first five years to put all fundamental elements right together or digital readiness, and will spend another five or ten years to grow the digital economy and to aim for technology-driven economy," he said.
The development of hard and soft infrastructures is a pre-condition for digital economy, said the minister, adding that the country needs to increase coverage of Internet connection and lower its usage cost.
"For digital economy to work, logistic system and payment platform are needed to put in place," he said. "While logistics networks and express mails allow for exchange of goods speedily and efficiently, a secure payment system will speed up the business transactions in the digital markets."
He said to create a healthy digital economy, Cambodia has developed a Master Plan for Information and Communication Technology, a Law on Telecommunications, and other relevant regulations as well as the development and implementation of a long-term ICT strategic framework.
Pornmoniroth said Cambodia may have to update taxation policy, labor policy, and legal recognition of digital signatures, identities, contracts and transactions to enable the digital economy.
Some 13.6 million of the country's 16 million people currently have access to the Internet, mostly via smartphones, according to the telecommunication regulator.
However, Ellen Goldstein, the World Bank country director for Cambodia, said Internet banking and digital payments are still new in Cambodia, as only one percent of the population used a mobile phone or the Internet to access a financial institution account in 2016.
She said only one out of four firms has a website, and the number of e-government services offered is limited.
"Moving forward, the country will need targeted policies to reinforce the basis upon which a digital economy can thrive," she said.
Goldstein said Cambodia needed to introduce regulations to safeguard data protection, data privacy and cybersecurity, to cultivate citizen and private sector trust in making digital transactions, and to develop and implement an effective digital government strategy.
Vongsey Vissoth, chairman of Cambodia's Digital Economy Policy Working Group, said the workshop was to gather inputs from all participants in order to set the direction for the formulation of Cambodia's digital economy policy framework.
He said the workshop brought together experts from the World Bank, Microsoft, Alibaba, Alipay, UnionPay International, Huawei, and VISA International, and they would share their experiences with Cambodian experts on topics such as the rise of digital economy, ICT infrastructure, digital payment, logistics, digital platforms, roles of software development firms, and digital government.