Mekong & Innovation

Competition Calls for Innovators to Design Technology to Monitor the Mekong

Cambodian students are being invited to tap into their innovation and develop sustainable technology to monitor the Mekong River as part of a region-wide competition
Kampong Phluk Floating Village in Siem Reap. Kiripost via MRC/Meng Kimlong
Kampong Phluk Floating Village in Siem Reap. Kiripost via MRC/Meng Kimlong

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has launched a competition that challenges the region’s university students to design cost-effective, sustainable technology to monitor the Mekong’s water levels, rainfall, soil moisture, and water quality.

The MRC said in a statement on Thursday that the main task of the competition is to develop telemetry-sensor technology that measures these four factors.

Such sensors are typically installed in separate stations, or outdoors on riverbanks, usually in agricultural areas. Competitors are tasked with designing a station appropriate for its own terrain, location, weather, and functions. It must also be operable via solar power, and capable of collecting and sending telemetry data from station to server in real-time, MRC said.

The MRC River Monitoring Technology Competition is open to the most innovative Cambodian, Laotian, Thai, and Vietnamese students – from one of 15 pre-selected universities across the Lower Mekong River Basin – to help protect the lifeblood of millions of fishing and farming families.

The MRC said it already maintains some 250 stations that monitor the hydrology, rainfall, water quality, ecological health, fisheries, and drought that affect Southeast Asia’s largest river. Yet most of this technology depends on foreign equipment that is often expensive and sometimes outdated.

MRC Secretariat CEO, Anoulak Kittikhoun, said homegrown solutions should drive down costs, develop local expertise, and offer other benefits, such as nurturing the notion that Mekong citizens can solve Mekong problems via technological innovation.

“We hope to inspire our Mekong youth to achieve their true potential and provide creative responses that solve many of our vexing challenges,” says Kittikhoun. “This is the time for you, and for us, to prove that we ourselves can develop technology that’s often made far away. You’ll be surprised at how much you can do: for yourself, for your university, for your society, and for the one and only Mekong River.”

The MRC said winning entries will be judged according to their accuracy, durability, cost-effectiveness, and innovation.

Students may compete as individuals or as a team under the tutelage of an advisor from their school. Since each university may only propose one team, for the four categories, they must help identify the candidates or team with the strongest proposal.

The applicant will then be invited to Bangkok to pitch their idea to the MRC Secretariat judges. The accepted project will each receive a grant of $800 to research and develop their prototype.

By the end of March, each competitor will present their prototype to a panel of international judges in Vientiane who will select four winning teams – one for each category.

As well as receiving $5,000, the winner will be invited to Vientiane to present their projects in April 2023, at both the 4th MRC Summit and MRC Pre-Summit International Conference, where regional heads of state and other dignitaries will be in attendance.

The winners will then work with MRC to implement their successful technology along the Mekong.