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ICT Policy and Regulations: How Cambodia can Learn from India

ISSUE 2019
No 16
Release 22 December 2019
By Ms. Tripathi Geeta

Executive Summary

❖ Emerging Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and Cloud Computing are major drivers for maximizing productivity across all fields.

❖ With a forward-looking government and entrepreneurial youth, Cambodia will develop higher quality information infrastructure, a technically skilled workforce, and spread digital literacy to their citizens at all levels, crucial for bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas.

❖ Cambodia can learn from India’s ICT development policy frameworks, to transform into a knowledge economy. The ICT sector enabled India to emerge from several economic challenges, while simultaneously building one of the largest and most skilled digital workforces internationally.

❖ This paper will highlight the aforementioned policies and achievements of India, while providing cooperation opportunities for Cambodia to build its ICT workforce and infrastructure, along with the policies and regulations required for support.


The rapid growth of technology and its adaptations by several nations over the last 30 years with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has brought the world closer together. Over the years, ICT has been one of the enablers for India’s growth story, making it digitally empowered with better standards of living and giving it an advantageous position in the service sector accessible to the global economy. The concurrent increases in its ICT talent pool have also propelled their industry into becoming a major player both at the domestic and international level, adopting a growing role for ICT development in the ASEAN region. In recent times, India has also embarked on its collaboration in ICT development with Cambodia, which is the fastest growing economy in the ASEAN region. Cambodia is taking several steps towards Industry 4.0 and working towards its digital transformation, as a long-term vision for the future development and prosperity of its people.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between India and Cambodia includes broad areas of cooperation such as ICT policy, spectrum management, ICT application for disaster management, cybersecurity and incident response. A separate MOU has also been signed between the Centre for the Development of Telematics (C-DOT), a leading research institution in India and Telecom Cambodia, which will address the deployment of advanced telecommunications technology and wireless solutions in rural areas. This also includes the creation of Smart Villages in the Kingdom. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) in India is developing e-governance applications, also establishing a Joint Working Group (JWG) with Cambodia. Parallely, the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY) of the Government of India has also set up a sustainable IT Infrastructure for Advanced IT Training using conventional and virtual classrooms, and e-learning technologies in Phnom Penh. India is also offering opportunities for doing Doctoral Programs with premier institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Technology for Cambodian engineers. As India and Cambodia are collaborating in various areas, the ICT development story of India can be examined by Cambodian policymakers for helping its sustainable growth towards a digital economy.

India’s Policy Initiatives and Evolution of ICT Sector

The ICT growth story in India gained its visibility starting from 1986 with the establishment of C-DOT that revolutionized Public Call Office (PCO) in the rural areas and then MTNL (Mahan agar Telephone Nigam Limited), helping the spread of telecommunications networks. Computerization was introduced by reducing taxes and tariffs for computers, telecommunications, and the modernization of railways. The National Policy of Education was also announced to modernize education and expand higher education in India with the setup of rural education. The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) was also established with its first High Performance Computing (HPC) mission in 1988 and the subsequent delivery of the PARAM series of supercomputers. C-DAC has been a frontrunner in the ICT revolution of India and has core competencies towards research and development in several ICT domains and is working towards several initiatives today in the ASEAN region. This was followed by the economic liberalization in 1991. The size of the Indian IT and IT- enabled service industry grew from USD 100 million to USD 1 billion, from the beginning to the end of the 1990s. Software Technology Parks were established, where the industry embraced the quality movement — first with ISO 9001, an international standard for quality management systems, and then with the Software Engineering Institute – Capability Maturity Model (SEI-CMM). By 1999, 50% of the SEI-CMM Level 5 organizations in the world were from India. Indian IT majors were listed on Indian and global business indexes all at the same time. With liberal policies introduced in India, multinational corporations (MNCs) such as IBM and GE set up their large-scale offshore development projects in the country. The Y2K framework, transitioning from the year 1999 to 2000, opened up huge opportunities for Indian ICT professionals, as the predominant knowledge force in the global IT space and since then, there has been no looking back. This was further enhanced with the rise of the telecommunications sector with major players like Bharti Airtel, Reliance, and other private players like Vodafone entering into the Indian market, who are currently catering to more than 90% of the mobile subscriber base, making it the largest market for mobile applications and devices. To date, India is also a major exporter of software products and has shown significant growth according to the statistics mentioned below, under the FY 1980-2015 and FY 2018:

To promote innovation and entrepreneurship, the National Knowledge Network (NKN) was established in 2009. This high-speed fibre optic network established an interconnection of around 30,000 to 40,000 educational and research institutes, including global research networks in the US, EU, Singapore and Japan. The goal is to enable real time collaboration and research. Currently, around 1606 institutes that are connected via the NKN. The other initiatives for public infrastructure include the National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) connecting 625,000 villages to improve telecommunications in India connecting 245,000 villages. Cambodian educational and research institutes can also be part of this network for building its human resource and technical capacity.

India-Cambodia Cooperation for Digital Transformation

As part of striving for inclusive development by Cambodian policymakers, they can examine policies and programmes under the umbrella of Digital India for key initiatives on digital ID like Aaadhaar, digital payment via Aaadhaar-based Direct Benefit Transfer, and the digital delivery of services, providing access to government services at the doorstep of citizens through the Common Services Centres. Harnessing the benefit of Cloud Computing with an ambitious initiative – GI Cloud Meghraj could accelerate the delivery of e-services in the country, while optimizing ICT spending of the government. Cambodia can also work with the Centres of Excellence (COEs) for applications of Internet of Things (IoT) in agriculture, medical devices, financial technology and cybersecurity solutions, as initiatives by the Government of India via NKN to initiate research collaboration. Some other initiatives under the National Policy of Electronics involve creating an ecosystem for the manufacturing of electronic products. These initiatives in the year 2014 has led India to be the 2nd largest manufacturer of mobiles in the world, while also building human capacity through Skill India programs. Envisaging the importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as part of the National Policy of Software Products 2019, a national centre on AI, along with COEs being established. These COEs are also being supported under the various Startup India initiatives, also for which Cambodia can collaborate with its current opportunities for the ICT Development Program 2050 and entrepreneurship programmes that promote young leaders in the nation.

Policy Options: Accelerating ICT Growth in Cambodia

ICT has played a vital role towards India’s digital revolution and growth as a knowledge economy. Over the years with several government awareness programmes, opportunities (this also includes FDI models for ease of business) have been created for improving the ICT infrastructure in the country. This has rapidly reduced the digital gap between urban and rural India making it now the second largest internet user in the world. This has led to growth of its ICT industry and high demand for a skilled ICT workforce, under several skill development initiatives creating employment opportunities at both a domestic and global level, with India’s huge talent pool of ICT professionals. With better government delivery services through e- governance initiatives for its citizens at both centre and state level, India also improved in GDP per capita income and continues to show progress in improving its HDI, Human Development Index. The Kingdom of Cambodia as part of the ASEAN region, is also growing as a knowledge economy and is showing similar potential to India with its enthusiastic and talented young professionals and brilliant students, who are currently pursuing their professional degrees in ICT subjects in local and international universities. It is recommended to pursue several initiatives parallelly, which will be required where Cambodia can establish COEs, with the Institutes of National Importance (INI) to carry out innovation and identify requirements related to the e-governance deliverables for citizens of different provinces. In addition, it will be key to identify ICT infrastructure requirements, the related power generation, and distribution needs for these provinces in Cambodia. As India and Cambodia have already started their cooperation for ICT Development in Cambodia, a Joint Working Group (JWG) can be formulated to expand its cooperation and development with specific sectors of ICT, creating opportunities and boosting Industry to Industry collaboration between India and Cambodia, and their respective ICT workforces. The proposed COEs, including schools in remote provinces of Cambodia, can be connected via satellite with the National Knowledge Network (NKN) for human capacity building and academic collaboration in ICT education and research, as part of an exchange programme with India. New ICT schemes will be formulated in the Cambodia-India JWG, which will give opportunities for the Cambodian ICT workforce and industry to create its demand at domestic and global levels, enabling Cambodia to develop a sustainable digital economy at an international standard.

The opinions expressed are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of the Asian Vision Institute.