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Cambodian Girls compete in a Mobile App Competition, Pushes Boundaries for Women in Technology

Cambodian girl coders achieve recognition at a Global Competition

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The five Cambodian girls of the app team Cambodia Identity Product, right, stand next to other coders from India and Hong Kong, at Technovation Challenge World Pitch Summit competition at Google headquarters
The five Cambodian girls of the app team Cambodia Identity Product, right, stand next to other coders from India and Hong Kong, at Technovation Challenge World Pitch Summit competition at Google headquarters. VOA
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  • We want to increase employment for Cambodians
  • In Cambodia, just 14 percent of students in information technology were women

A group of Cambodian girls who recently traveled to California to compete in a mobile app competition offered inspiration for other girls worldwide to consider careers in technology.

Their pitch in Silicon Valley wasn’t a bid to be the next billion-dollar company. Instead, they want to help their country with a mobile phone application to address poverty.

“Let’s fight poverty by using our app. Don’t find customers for your product, find products for your customers,” said Lorn Dara Soucheng, 12, who led the team that created the app, Cambodian Identity Product.

“We want to increase employment for Cambodians, so there will be a reduction of Cambodian migrants to work in other countries, reducing poverty through making income and providing charity to local Cambodians,” Chea Sopheata, 11, told the judges at Google’s headquarters. Google was one of the program’s sponsors.

To participate in the Aug. 7-11 Technovation global competition, girls around the world had to build a mobile app — and a business plan — that addressed a U.N. development goal. The Cambodian girls picked poverty.

While globalization has boosted the economic growth of Cambodia, especially its tourism industry, it has also created greater economic inequality and competition. The girls think their app can help.

“We want to promote our culture to people from all over the world,” said Lorn Dara Soucheng.

At their young age, no one expects these girls to be able to solve their country’s most pressing issues quite yet. But their presence here highlighted another issue: girls in tech fields.

In the U.S. and worldwide, the number of women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) remains low and has even dropped.

In Cambodia, just 14 percent of students in information technology were women as of 2010. It’s a situation some attribute to a lack of equal access to education and a lack of female role models.

It’s hoped that programs like Technovation can reverse that trend.

“For the first time in history, technology can really help girls have a strong voice and help us have a society that has equality,” said Tara Chklovski, founder, and CEO of Iridescent, the nonprofit organization behind Technovation.

These young Cambodian girls have proved how far they can go with technology. Most come from underprivileged backgrounds but had support from teachers, mentors, and family.

Cambodian American Pauline Seng, a program manager at Google, said the young coders have become role models for many other Cambodians, including herself. She didn’t get into technology until she was 23.

“There’s going to be so many people who aspire to reach this stage and also inspire other people to get involved in technology,” she said.

Although the Cambodian girls did not win the grand prize, which went to a team from Hong Kong, they were proud to have made it to Google and Silicon Valley.

After watching the male CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, speaking at the closing ceremony, the girls said they believed the tech giant would one day have a female leader.

“Yes!” they said, in unison.

Whether that will come true or not, they have themselves already become the youngest role models to inspire others, one girl at a time. (VOA)

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A nest of endangered turtle found in Mekong river in Cambodia

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A nest of endangered turtle found in Mekong river in Cambodia.
A nest of endangered turtle found in Mekong river in Cambodia. wikimedia
  • An endangered giant turtle was found in Cambodia
  • The turtle was transferred to Wildlife Conservation Society
  • The turtle is taken to breed and all the eggs hatch and the hatchlings are released into the river.

Phnom Penh, Dec 20, 2017: A nest of the globally endangered Asian giant softshell turtle was found on a sandbar on the Mekong river in Cambodia, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.

This is the only remaining area in the country where these huge turtles still breed. This nest was now being protected by native communities until all the eggs hatch and the hatchlings are released into the river.

The Asian giant softshell turtle or Pelochelys cantorii is listed on the IUCN Red List as globally endangered.

It was thought extinct in the Cambodian portion of the Mekong river until its rediscovery in 2007 in a 48-km river stretch in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.

The Mekong Turtle Conservation Project, formerly managed by Conservation International, was transferred to the WCS this year, with collaboration from the Fisheries Administration and the Turtle Survival Alliance.

The community-based protection programme encourages the participation of the communities living in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces by hiring former nest collectors to search for and protect nests, instead of harvesting the eggs.

Since 2007, a total of 378 nests have been protected and 8,528 hatchlings released.

“From now until June is the breeding period of the Asian giant softshell turtle. This is the first nest we have found so far this year. We will work hard with the Fisheries Administration and local communities to find more nests along the Mekong river and protect them from egg collection,” Som Sitha, WCS’s Technical Advisor to the Turtle Conservation Project, said.

“The Asian giant softshell turtle is a very rare species that will become extinct in the near future if we do not take proper action to conserve them. There are not many individuals left. Everyone can help conserve the species by not buying or eating their meat or eggs.” (IANS)