Start-up innovations

Cambodia’s ICT Start-ups Awarded for Innovations During Covid-19

From health apps that provide access to safe pharmaceuticals to a QR code that has helped curb the spread of covid and digital educational tools that enabled virtual learning during school closures, a series of innovative ICT solutions have been awarded for their innovative problem-solving.
Winners of ICT awards on stage with Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Chea Vandeth (center).  Picture: Supplied
Winners of ICT awards on stage with Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Chea Vandeth (center). Picture: Supplied

A start-up health app that provides Cambodians with access to safe drugs has scooped a top award for its innovation.

Pill Tech won best digital startup 2021 on Tuesday for products, services, and accomplishments that have led to game-changing innovations using technology in Cambodia.

Pill Tech App
Pill Tech App

Pill Tech is one of six winners announced during the Cambodia ICT Awards 2021, organized by Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology (CADT).

Vireak Chea, CEO and Pill Tech cofounder, said on Tuesday that the platform has helped millions of Cambodians to access safe drugs.

“We are the health care super app,” he said during a one-minute pitch at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on Facebook. He added that the platform aims to provide millions of patients with safe access to medicines in Cambodia.

“According to WHO, 15 percent of drugs are fake in Cambodia,” added Vireak Chea. “Since pharmacists are the point of care for millions of patients, in order to have a positive impact on millions of patients, you really have to take good care of the pharmacists. Pill Tech does that by creating a platform where they can buy safely, accurately, [and cheaper]. Not only that, it is verified by the Ministry of Health.”

Vireak Chea said in terms of traction, business has increased by 250 percent from August to October. A total of 1,000 pharmacies have now joined the platform. Total sales from January to October sit at $820,000.

Vireak Chea’s experience spans 15 years working as a pharmacist at Walgreens in the United States and more than nine years in pharmacy retail in Cambodia.

“That puts us in the best position to really help solve this very fragmented pharmaceutical distribution at work in Cambodia,” Vireak Chea said. Additionally, he urged the government to offer support in laws and regulations, and partnerships with local and international manufacturing companies and clinics.

A Ministry of Education, Youths and Sports (MoEYS) E-Learning App won best social innovation technology of the year. This includes services or products that use ICT to solve public and societal problems of the public and society. MoEYS E-Learning App allows students across the country to learn during the Covid-19 pandemic that closed schools for the majority of 1.5 years.

MoEYS E-Learning App
MoEYS E-Learning App

“We are only today’s solution, not only today but we are tomorrow,” said Professor Lun Borey at the ceremony.

ArrowDot, emergency low-cost ventilator, won best digital award. It offers products and services that discover new formulas, methods, rules and innovations. Sastra Film, a local movie streaming app, won best digital content. The category that provides videos, games, and audio files that contribute to solving people’s problems.

Vireak Buntham, a passenger bus and logistics company, won best digital innovation for its use of ICT to make enterprise, business become better, faster, and more efficient.

The QR Code Stop Covid won best government digital service for its innovative use of ICT to serve the public and help curb the spread of coronavirus.

Meloney Lindberg, country representative of the Asia Foundation, presented the award criteria. She said the program launched in July with total prizes of $12,000. In the semifinals, 53 applicants competed across six categories.

Judges include executives from Khmer Enterprise, American University of Phnom Penh, Smart Axiata, Chip Mong Group and Huwei Technologies.

“First, we looked at innovations. We defined this as something that came to us with a new approach. We looked for businesses that found a new way to maximize their efficiency, to give it a competitive advantage, and to better develop and adapt to the market,” Lindberg said.

She said secondary criteria included problem-solving, where judges looked for businesses that found a new creative way to solve specific problems using digital technology.

“The third criteria was efficiency of operations, where applicants were evaluated on their ability to maximize resources and deliver their products efficiently, at the least cost possible, of course making sure there is high quality,” Lindberg said.

The last criteria was marketing strategy, where judges evaluated how the businesses attracted customers, established connections with targeted audiences.

Seng Sopheap, President of Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology, said: “This year’s awards reflect the fact that tech startups and companies have the capability to embrace challenges faced during the covid pandemic and have turned them into opportunities to innovate their products and business models to be ready to bounce back in the New Normal.”