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Top 8 students awarded fully paid internships with Axiata Group in SmartEdu USDP Cohort 3

The SmartEdu University Student Development Program (USDP) has returned with a bang, with three semi-finalist teams pitching digital solutions to the top management of Heineken Cambodia, Prudential Cambodia and Smart Axiata. The Grand Finale, held on November 24, was presided over by H.E. Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, H.E. Eldeen Husaini Mohd Hashim, Ambassador of Malaysia to Cambodia, and Dato’ Izzaddin Idris, President & Group Chief Executive Officer of Axiata Group Berhad.

Team Smart, consisting of eight university undergraduates, presented an innovative referral program to solve the challenge of encouraging e-top ups among phone users and was selected as the winner of the CEO Challenge, winning a cash prize of 1,800 USD. The solution, developed in just 48 hours, was judged to be the outstanding innovation by Smart Axiata’s Acting CEO Feiruz Ikhwan, Prudential Cambodia’s Chief Financial Officer Balaji Ravi and Heineken Cambodia’s Chief of Digital and Technology Franco Zhao.

Other awards presented during the Grand Finale included the Best Performing Team First Runner-Up, with a cash prize of 1,000 USD, and Best Performing Team, with a cash prize of 1,400 USD. Eight top individual performers were also recognized and presented with a fully paid two-month internship at Axiata Group in Malaysia.

Speaking at the Awards Ceremony of the SmartEdu USDP Cohort 3, Feiruz Ikhwan said that the program was designed to empower young Cambodians with ICT innovation skills and capacities that would help further the country’s digital economy.

“SmartEdu USDP is a wonderful opportunity for young Cambodians to learn real-life problem-solving skills in a simulated environment. The participants were encouraged to disrupt the status quo, think outside the box and take measured risks. We are immensely proud to have played a role in unlocking the digital leaders in them and develop Cambodia’s best digital business minds. The intensive 13-day Bootcamp, enabled by the Capacity Building and R&D Fund, could not have happened without tremendous support from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.”

The program, which was launched in 2018, returned to the Kingdom after a year-long hiatus in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Selected from 12 universities across the country, the 48 Cambodian students were first divided into eight teams that underwent a Bootcamp at Garden City Hotel in Phnom Penh. They worked on improving their skills in communication, creativity and critical thinking, as well as emotional intelligence. All participants went through numerous digital business-related challenges, workshops and simulations where they were pushed to the limit and provided 360-degree feedback on each other.

Yim Salinda, member of the winning team of the CEO Challenge, said: “All the sleepless nights during the bootcamp were worth it because beyond just business skills, I’ve learnt so many valuable lessons in life especially when it comes to working as a team. The CEO Challenge was a remarkable experience; it was tough to work under pressure and time constraint, but I have no regrets because this bootcamp has fully prepared me as a future leader.”

SmartEdu USDP was launched in October 2018 as part of the tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and Smart Axiata. As part of the MoU, Smart has committed to investing 1.5 million USD over three years into two SmartEdu programs – the SmartEdu Scholarship Program and SmartEdu USDP.

SmartEdu USDP is expected to further develop Cambodia’s best digital business minds, giving young people the tools and skills to help drive the country’s tech landscape.

For more information and updates on SmartEdu programs, follow the Smart for Cambodia Facebook page at or visit

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