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The Anakut podcast: Leapfrogging and the future of work in Cambodia

From our mics to your ears, we’re back with another episode of Anakut, the podcast about Cambodia as it is today and how it just might be tomorrow.

For our fifth trip to the airwaves, Meng and I are talking leapfrogging – not the classic children’s game, but the concept that developing States can skip over old technology to get right up to speed with the latest and greatest.

Think of Cambodia’s bypassing of landlines to go straight to cellular networks and you’ve got an idea of what we mean.

To explore that topic, we wanted to sit down with some guests working right now to make leapfrogging happen in the Kingdom. That’s why we invited Kem Bora, partner at Mekong Strategic Partners investment group, and Manu Rajan, the CEO of Wing, one of Cambodia’s major digital money transfer services, to visit us at Serey Studios here in Phnom Penh to share the view from their walk of life.

We had a few big overarching questions in mind as we headed into this conversation. At the centre of it all is this one: Leapfrogging may be a favourite term of certain members of the economic booster class, but is it really the fast-track that it’s often claimed to be?

Diving even deeper into that idea, we noted that leapfrogging is often tied into the more specific idea of Industry 4.0, a next-generation manufacturing landscape dominated by automation and advanced computing. We wanted to know what social implications that kind of development has for the public, especially in a labour-intensive economy such as that here in Cambodia.

Long story short, it wasn’t enough to hear what leapfrogging is doing today — we had to learn what it’ll do for Cambodians in the days to come. 
We put it straight to our guests, pressing them on the finer points of leapfrog philosophy. And the conversation did not disappoint on that front.

When we questioned if the foray into Industry 4.0 was a wise move for labour-heavy Cambodia, Bora gave us a frank response.

“I don’t think we have a choice,” he said. “To be competitive, you have to be relevant.”

Competition is the name of the game anywhere, but the contest is especially tight in Southeast Asia, where fast-developing nations are jostling to break through into new levels of prosperity. Still, we weren’t satisfied with the inevitability of the answer.

Everyone wants to move fast. But the big question for us centred squarely on how to ensure that all Cambodians get a chance to leapfrog together. Maybe the clearest answer to that is education. On that front, our guests told us it’s less what the people know than how they think, how they approach the challenges of an evolving world with a critical mind.

Building that mindset should be a goal for each and every one of us. But it’s easier said than done, right? Hit the play button up top to hear more about how we get to that level of thinking.

All episodes of the podcast can be found on our Anakut webpageAmazon, Apple, Google and Spotify. This episode of Anakut was recorded at Serey Studio in Phnom Penh.

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