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[PHNOM PENH] Cambodia is preparing to develop its first ever multi-year plan for science and technology (S&T) after receiving funding from South Korea.

The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has given Cambodia US$3.5 million to develop its plan for 2014–20 during the next three years.

The agreement was signed off last month (24 June) after Cambodian officials made several visits to South Korea to see how S&T has led to high living standards, Cambodia's minister of planning, Chhay Than, told SciDev.Net.

Chhay said that the development of S&T is one of the priorities for the Cambodian government as it seeks to accelerate economic growth and alleviate poverty.

He added that South Korea will also provide advice and technical support, and "will continue to provide money to help implement the plan in the future".

The S&T masterplan will include plans to develop a national centre for research and development programmes in areas including agriculture and information and communication technology, to boost the country's scientific infrastructure and to build the capacity of local government officials to foster an increase in human resources. The planning will start in September.

Cambodia was torn apart by a four-year civil war in the 1970s, during which its educated classes were targeted by the Khmer Rouge and its scientific institutions closed down. But it has bounced back to become one of the fastest-growing economies in South-East Asia.

Leewood Phu, secretary general of Cambodia's National Information Communications Technology Development Authority, believes that investment in S&T is important because the sector is underdeveloped.

"Investment in S&T will improve human capacity and institutional capacity, leading to productivity improvement. The policy should include capacity in science and technology. It is the foundation for everything," he said.

Hong Lyda, who initiated the project at Cambodia's Ministry of Planning and co-wrote the proposal submitted to the South Korean government, told SciDev.Net that the masterplan is seen as the first step to improving the country’s development.

"When I saw how everyday life in Korea revolves around science and technology, my epiphany was that Cambodia, too, would be able to do the same in years to come," she said.

"We believe it is science that helps improve the country even faster. Since our country is more of an agrarian society, science and technology will, in addition, help boost our economy through agriculture and other areas."