Cambodia—Development Innovations

Client: U.S. Agency for International Development

Duration: 2013-2019

Region: Asia and the Pacific

Country: Cambodia

Solutions: Economic Growth Digital Acceleration

Technology—when carefully adapted to the context and users it serves—has the potential to empower civil society organizations (CSOs) and citizens to tackle development challenges in innovative ways with increased reach and results. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Development Innovations project connected Cambodia’s civil society and technology communities to design and use information and communication technology (ICT) solutions, and innovative methods, to address Cambodia’s development challenges. The project toolkit included public-private sector partnerships, ICT4D advisory and match-making services, technology expositions, small grants, the 5D Lab co-working space, and the Lab@DI, a service-centered space that provides customized tech training services, and access to equipment and tech coaches.

This program enabled Cambodian-led technology products to be designed and built to meet civil society and user demands and trigger changes in the ways civil society conducts programs and design solutions. DI was dedicated to services tailored to the needs of civil society actors, and helped improve access to and use of tools such as mobile technologies, the Internet, and social media. Ultimately, DI delivered 91 technology solutions that reached 1.6 million Cambodians. Watch the video to learn more about the project’s impact over six years:

Sample Activities

  • Establish a gathering place for the community to learn, meet, hold learning events, work collaboratively, and access in-demand resources.
  • Build capacity through group training curriculums and one-on-one guidance on human-centered design, ICT4D proposal writing, social media, and developing information security.
  • Provide financial and technical assistance through a grant fund to support the development of content, technology, and implementation of ICT-enabled projects that support civil society objectives and support locally driven solutions and programs.
  • Develop a sustainable market for social innovation by ensuring local services providers—both enterprises and nongovernmental groups—have the practical experience and technical skills to support adaptable, cutting-edge programming after the project ends.

Select Results

  • Provided hands-on consultations focused on video, applications, websites, social media, and how to plan effective tech-enabled projects to more than 300 people from CSOs, private companies, and startups.
  • Awarded more than $2 million in small grants to CSOs and companies to develop, test, and implement their tech solutions. Through these grants and technical assistance, 80 ICT solutions were developed and implemented, reaching approximately 1.5 million direct beneficiaries.
  • Built public-private partnerships and secured sponsorships to leverage USAID’s investments and fund ICT solutions and tech community events.
  • At the Lab@DI, developed and delivered fee-based training courses on video production and social media management to more than 500 trainees. From 2018 to 2019, DI transferred the courses to four local nongovernmental partners that now provide public-facing trainings and use the curriculums within their networks.
  • Through the Technovation tech entrepreneurship education program, supported more than 600 young girls to develop tech business skills and essential soft skills through mobile app projects. Participants learn business, coding, prototyping, communication, and teamwork skills to develop a mobile application to address social problems.
  • Supported SHE Investments’ incubator and accelerator programs to equip women with startups and micro, small, and growing enterprises with business management, digital literacy, and leadership skills.
  • Facilitated the design and development of 91 user-focused technology solutions in education, climate disasters, childcare, natural resources, and healthcare.
  • Co-designed Cambodia’s first formal social startup incubator run by Impact Hub Phnom Penh, which built the capacity of 11 ventures. As of 2019, Impact Hub now runs dozens of entrepreneurship support programs across Cambodia.
  • In partnership with leading telco Smart Axiata, supported Mekong Strategic Partners to run SmartScale powered by Seedstars, an investor-led business accelerator for 12 growth-stage enterprises to improve investment readiness and business sustainability.


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