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Phnom Penh, 14th February 2017: As part of the journey towards digital future, Smart Axiata today announced the launch of a new program – dubbed “SmartStart: Young Innovator Program” – aiming to help young Cambodians develop their innovative ideas, with the goal of turning the best concepts into actual tech enterprises in the future.

SmartStart is a nine-month university program* initiated to inspire, enable and grow technology-related business ideas by unleashing the innovative potential of students and empowering them to realize these ideas through workshops and mentorship. Strongly endorsed by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, this program will pilot in four top Cambodian universities this year, specially targeting year 3 and 4 undergraduate students who aspire to make a change through innovative digital-related business ideas.

Thomas Hundt, Chief Executive Officer of Smart Axiata, said: “Smart is committed to being a pioneer and a long-term investor in the country’s ICT sector. We believe the young generation is the future and we want to unlock and develop their untapped ingenuity. This journey, formulated by Smart, intends to promote aspiring innovators and accelerate ICT development in Cambodia. SmartStart has been framed in such a way that it will not only give students the knowledge, but also the tools in terms of hands-on experience, mentorship and funding.”

H.E. Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) mirrored this sentiment: “On the eve of the 4th industrial revolution, characterized by digitalization, automation and so forth, Cambodia’s young generation must equip themselves with ICT knowledge and skills. The SmartStart program launched today will significantly contribute to MoEYS’ vision of developing a knowledge-based society within Cambodia. I encourage young innovators from all four universities to take up this great opportunity with Smart throughout the next few months.” H.E. Dr. Naron further added: “In an increasingly interconnected world, I’m delighted to see Smart so involved in developing new initiatives for our young Cambodians by leveraging on its ICT expertise.”

H.E. Dr. Kan Channmeta, Secretary of State, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications of Cambodia (MPTC) said, “One of MPTC’s Telecommunication and ICT Development (T-ICT) Policy strategic thrusts is strengthening the foundation of T-ICT Development through ICT literacy and also human resource development, among other areas. I am pleased that Smart, a key development partner of MPTC, has played an active role in supporting this policy through various initiatives, including SmartStart. With support from MPTC, I am optimistic that the program will advance and contribute towards spurring Cambodia’s digital innovation and economy.”

“SmartStart’s tagline, ‘Innovating with You, Investing in You!’ resonates with Smart’s role beyond being a leading mobile telecommunications provider in Cambodia, to holistically contribute towards a sustainable economy and society. We are excited to partner with the four selected universities to discover young innovators and believe that through this program, digital ideas and solutions beneficial to our society will be produced together with Smart,” Thomas added.

Young and aspiring undergraduates from the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Institute of Technology of Cambodia, National University of Management and National Institute of Posts, Telecoms & ICT will be eligible to apply and be part of this year’s SmartStart program, which will involve all Cambodian universities in future. Applications open early next week via; interested students can attend information sessions at the respective universities during the same week to gain full understanding about SmartStart.

Over two phases, than 120 shortlisted students will undergo intensive workshops to accelerate their digital ideas whereby up to five successful teams will be selected to go through the final phase: a 6-month funded incubation process and tailored support scheme in partnership with a global incubator hub, to turn those ideas into actual businesses or products through an ecosystem of resources, mentorship, inspiration, and collaboration opportunities. Each winning team will additionally receive USD 4,000 cash funding; the team with the best progress will also be given a sponsored Singapore Tech-Trip to visit the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

SmartStart is one of the various avenues Smart is exploring to enable aspiring young entrepreneurs to develop their ideas, through its own initiatives as well as partnerships with incubator hubs and awareness programs, all of which will contribute towards accelerating expected digital start-ups and innovation opportunities, that is expected to grow in the coming years

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