Sovan’s Story: Transforming Education In Cambodia Through Tech


អត្ថបទ​នេះមានជាភាសា៖ kmខ្មែរ


By Georgi Simpkin

Communications Consultant

Wise beyond her years, Sovan is 30 years old, the CEO and Co-founder of Edemy, and one of the most modest women I’ve ever met. What she has done to advance access to education is remarkable. Through Edemy, she has given over 22,000 school children access to educational tools and technology previously unavailable to them. When asked how she feels about what she and the team have achieved she says: “There are 2 million children at high school in Cambodia, so we have a lot more work. We have only just begun”.

Edemy is a social enterprise that uses technology to help all Cambodians access education. The idea for the business was inspired by Sovan’s personal experience of volunteering in rural schools when she was studying English Teaching at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. “Despite many hours of study, 70% of children still fail their national exams. I saw children working very hard but it doesn’t mean they succeed. I wanted to find a way to support these children to not only pass the exam but to enjoy learning,” says Sovan.

Sovan secured her first wave of DI support through seed funding in 2017, when she and the team pitched the Edemy concept at Impact Hub’s EPIC Incubator. “We won $10,000 to kick start us and with the support of Impact Hub and DI we developed the Edemy prototype, the curriculum, the technology. This was a pivotal moment to our success today,” says Sovan.

As part of the EPIC Incubator program, the Edemy team regularly met with DI to report on their progress, share their challenges and receive Human Centred Design training. “We met with a Human Centred Design expert and he helped us to switch our mindset and to put the user at the focal point of our design solutions. Typically, we tend to think this is the right idea and solution without talking to our students. DI was very adamant about being user centric”.

The DI team worked with Sovan to guide them on how to interview their students to find out what they really needed and also the challenges they face at school. “DI helped us to have empathy in how we design our product.” Edemy now uses this approach with all product development. Sovan comments, “When we were developing Tesdopi we met with around 100 students and teachers to conduct in-depth interviews, give surveys and join classes to see how students learn and interact with the teachers.”

In 2018, Edemy received their second wave of DI support to expand their latest tech innovation, Tesdopi. This mobile app helps high school students gauge how well they know their STEM subjects. The simple tool assesses a student’s level of knowledge in subjects like science and math and provides practical advice on how to improve e.g. tutorial videos, practice tests or getting help from their teachers. “When we started Tesdopi we had a few hundred diagnostic questions but after we got the DI funding we now have over 10,000 questions. This makes such a difference in how we diagnose proficiency levels.”

Still staying in education and learning, Edemy expanded their services from high school students to female entrepreneurs, a subject close to Sovan’s heart. “I know how hard it is to start a business and also how hard it can be as a woman. I was so happy when SHE Investments asked us to develop the e-learning platform for Ngeay Ngeay”. Ngeay Ngeay, meaning “easy easy” in Khmer, was originally funded in 2017 by DI, in partnership with internet service provider Ezecom. It is an innovative online business platform which provides free information on how to register a business for all Cambodians, targeted towards the needs of female business owners. Edemy helped to build the online learning platform as well as the content management system.

Sovan enthusiastically recounts the support she and her team received from DI over the years. From video and social media training, mentoring, helping improve public speaking abilities, and eventually emceeing at various DI events, DI has supported Sovan and her team throughout their journey. In particular, Sovan mentions the rigour from the DI team when it came to measurement, impact and KPIs. “The team always ask us questions about the numbers and what impact are we making. They showed us how to measure and helped us gain a better understanding about why it is important. We borrowed this process from them and applied it to our organization so we can measure our own impact,” says Sovan.

Under Sovan’s leadership Edemy has achieved so much over the last three years but she has even bigger plans for the future. Her goal is for Edemy to be at the forefront of research and development in education technology in Cambodia. Sovan reflects on her DI journey, “The grants we received from DI created a longer runway for us to develop our business. They gave us the flexibility, support and time to develop solutions that solve the real issues in education. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for DI,” says Sovan.