From Cambodian High School Student to Tech Trailblazer: Tevy’s Story


អត្ថបទ​នេះមានជាភាសា៖ kmខ្មែរ


By Georgi Simpkin

Communications Consultant

By age 19, Sokuntevy (Tevy) had been a part of a winning team for Technovation Cambodia 2018, she had secured funding for her award winning mobile app, and was named 2019 Girl Innovator of the year at the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Cambodian Women in Tech Awards. When asked what she wants to do after she leaves university, she knows exactly what she wants, saying, “I want to be a tech entrepreneur.” Before she even turns 20, Tevy is already well on her way to becoming one of Cambodia’s youngest female tech trailblazers.

Most women Tevy’s age who’ve just finished their first year at university would be spending their holidays taking a break, seeing family or hanging out with friends. Not Tevy! When she isn’t studying, she is making the 3 to 4 hour road trip from Kirirom Institute of Technology, where she studies Software Engineering, to Phnom Penh to meet with her tech startup partners.

So how did Tevy achieve so much since high school? Her technology awakening happened back in 2017, when she was just 17 years old. Her high school took part in Technovation, a global technology entrepreneurship program for girls 10 to 18 years old, originally funded by DI, now funded by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the private sector. “Before Technovation I have no idea what I am going to do. I don’t have any future plans and I don’t know what I can do to give back to society”. After her first taste of tech, she was hooked. In 2017, her mobile app idea to link Cambodians to health data made it through to the semi-finals, but it wasn’t until Technovation 2018 that she landed on her winning social innovation idea, E-Lab.

E-lab is an educational mobile platform which shows Cambodian high school students from Grade 7 to 12 how to safely conduct science experiments based on the national curriculum. “In most public high schools, we are taught about the theory of science, but we never get to do any practical exercises. It makes it hard to learn. Most people memorise the lessons to pass exams, but this isn’t good learning. You can’t use the knowledge if you don’t understand it”. She grew this idea into a project with business and technical mentors during the Technovation 2018 season, and E-Lab was born.

Not long after her Technovation win, the DI funded Youth Innovate Cambodia Program (a 3-month challenge that aims to transform innovative ideas into real activities and solutions) awarded E-Lab $3,500 in seed funding to kick start their start up. “At that time, we only had the video content, but we didn’t have the platform to post the videos. The Youth Innovate Program, provided us with video training, advisory services and basic social media training to help us [move] forward,” says Tevy.

With funding from the Youth Innovate Cambodia Program, the E-Lab team created more videos and conducted additional research on how to do science experiments safely at home. Tevy explains, “In our videos, students have to follow the safety tips before they can actually do the experiments as we want to ensure everyone is safe.” At the moment Tevy and her team appear in the videos but they plan to feature more teachers in the future to build trust with students and further encourage them to get involved with science experiments.

After the Youth Innovate Cambodia Program, Tevy and her team have big plans to create equal education opportunities for all students in Cambodia. “Not all high school students have a mobile phone, so we want to run a campaign to reach out to rural schools and teach them about science experiments and how it is useful. We want to create E-lab school ambassadors groups so they can perform the experiment and if we can find enough support we will also provide the school with a tablet”.

Tevy has also paid forward her DI training and experience to help other girls in tech. In 2019, she was one of the Student Ambassadors who travelled to San Francisco with the Cambodian team who had made it through to the global Technovation finals. “I tried to help the girls as they prepared for their pitch and to help them be more confident. They won second place, and everyone was so happy.”

Thinking back on the last three years, Tevy says that she can’t really believe everything that has happened. It is hard to imagine this confident young woman not being able to make eye contact with people, but she said “In 2017 even though I can speak English, I was still a bit shy to talk to people and I cannot even look at their eyes while talking. Now I am confident, and I want to help other people.”

When Tevy and E-Lab became part of the Youth Innovate Cambodia Program, they were also exposed to the DI network of partners, people and events. “We got to showcase our products at different events like Barcamp and STEM [Festival], which is great for us to meet people who might be interested in what we are doing”. She also talks about how DI helped to shape who she is today, “DI created a lot of opportunities for me to become who I am right now. They supported me and other Cambodians who struggle and have been through a lot of problems. DI has helped us a lot.”

Effervescent with future plans and ideas for what she will achieve personally and professionally, you can’t help but root for Tevy. “I am very ambitious, I want to accomplish many things. I want to run E-Lab and I want to make it very successful and I want to expand to all the provinces in Cambodia.” She goes on to say, “I have my clear plan. I know I can use technology to create impact to society and solve social problems that my people are facing.”