The Globe as you know it is changing.
Coming June 2019

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To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Education / The entrepreneur aiming to create the Silicon Valley of SE Asia – in rural Cambodia

By: Tom O'Connell - Posted on: October 15, 2018 | Cambodia

An ambitious Japanese entrepreneur is developing a master-planned community for 100,000 residents in a Cambodian forest three hours from the capital. His vision is off to an apparently strong start, with an eco-resort, a tech campus and free scholarships for Cambodian students. Will his 20-year plan become Southeast Asia’s answer to Silicon Valley?

The 10% of Cambodian students who pass the IT entrance exam get free tuition and room and board at this campus and city of the future being built in the Cambodian wilderness Photo: vKirirom

Takeshi Izuka is quietly building a city of the future in the Cambodian wilderness. At the heart of it is a tech university that he says will spearhead similar planned communities globally. The Japanese tech entrepreneur started looking for projects around the world after selling Digital Forest, a leading web analytics firm he founded in 1998, when he stumbled onto an opportunity in Kirirom National Park, where he could execute his vision without the regulatory bureaucracy he would face in most other nations. 

The Cambodian government gave a 50-year lease on 10,000 hectares of land to Takeshi and his vKirirom development company, 20% of which it can build on  – and, six years later, his planned community is taking shape.

Among the tall pines, orchids, rare hornbilled birds, waterfalls and lakes, footpaths and the occasional wild elephant, Takeshi started a buildout in 2012 that now includes the Kirirom Institute of Technology (KIT) and an eco-resort with both modern rooms and “glamping” (glamour camping, which means you sleep on a comfy mattress inside a tent that someone else pitches for you). That’s just the start. He’s planning a sustainable, smart, walkable city – and a modern tech campus, an IT services company, a hospitality school, an architecture school, water parks and other tourist attractions, and home sales to help pay for it all.

“Where most people only saw trees and wilderness, I saw huge opportunities to drive innovation in education, eco-tourism and eco-living to create the Silicon Valley of Southeast Asia,” vKirirom founder and president Takeshi told Southeast Asia Globe.

“The objective of my project is for Cambodia and Japan to collaborate with each other to make the world a better place,” Takeshi continued. “Being Japanese, initially I wanted to make these changes in Japan, but due to its strict and inflexible regulations, it is a difficult environment for driving innovations.”

Japan’s average age is 50, so they need immigrant workers. It’s been discussed for decades, but they haven’t opened it up for political reasons, but now they’re being forced to

Takeshi thinks the fast pace of change in Cambodia – which he attributes to “the fast top-down decision making… and the aggressiveness of a country with nothing to lose and everything to gain” – will help Cambodia become a tech leader in Asia.

“There’s a lighter regulatory environment, so he can create his own city, he can create his own university, his own resort,” said vKirirom’s senior vice president, Hicki Okamoto, of the visionary behind the venture. Okamoto left behind an 11-year career at Microsoft in Seattle to help Takeshi build his futuristic city that’s all about “co-living, co-working and co-nature”, he explained.

KIT’s first 24 students arrived in 2015, recruited around the provinces via a test that just 10% of KIT hopefuls pass. Cambodian students who are accepted get a full-ride scholarship that includes room and board, and they must commit to an eight-year program: four years of study followed by four years working for a tech firm in Japan or Cambodia at the same salary as graduates from any other school. There are currently 138 students, 16 of them from Japan and the rest from the Kingdom. In December, KIT will graduate its first class, consisting of 22 students.

“The biggest way to make social impact is through the young generation,” said Okamoto. “[Takeshi] thought that university education in Japan is completely broken and they don’t teach practical IT skills in Japan, so this was a chance for him to bring his innovative ideas to life, and he’s proven it so far.”

The visionary Japanese entrepreneur behind vKirirom believes projects like his will be replicated all over the world Photo: vKirirom

Cambodia made sense to Takeshi for an IT school because over half its population is under 24 years old, while Japan, with its aging populace, faces increasing shortages of young IT talent.

But how do you sell the idea of sending Cambodian IT workers to Japanese firms?

“Working abroad is a dream for [young Cambodians]. Right now we’re focused on Japan because of the visa issues in the US with Trump and other areas,” said Okamoto. “Basically one of the few areas that’s opening their doors is Japan because they have a shortage of workers. Their average age is 50, so they need immigrant workers. It’s been discussed for decades, but they haven’t opened it up for political reasons, but now they’re being forced to.”

For the mostly college-age Cambodian students who attend KIT, the program offers opportunities that might not have been available to them before, including the chance to live and study in the mountains of their home country and to work at top tech firms abroad.

“When I left home to join this school, my family respected my decision. They also saw how beneficial it is to study in KIT,” said student Dy Sopheak, 19. “Students are not only provided with full scholarship, but also opportunities to work in developed countries.”

Takeshi plans a sustainable city and campus designed internally and not by expensive outside firms.

“The architecture has to be very innovative,” Okamoto said. “For example, everything will be green, solar panels on roofs, rainwater stored underground, waste management is going to be very green as well. We won’t have cars in the city, everything is either walking distance or we’ll be providing an electric shuttle bus. Also, no zoning – we want people living and working and businesses to be all mashed together.”

The students at the Kirirom Institute of Technology learn from world-class IT faculty and visiting lecturers Photo: vKirirom

One model for vKirirom is the master-planned city of Irvine, California, which also is based around educational institutions and tech companies. And like Irvine, which was founded in 1971 and rose up from desolate farmland to become a tech and education hub, vKirirom hopes to attract leading IT companies that will bring their offices and headquarters there as Takeshi’s vision grows.

To this end, vKirirom will soon launch an IT services company called A2A Digital that will bring income for the project and allow students to learn hands-on. There will also eventually be a hospitality school and an architecture curriculum to train students to run the resort and design future additions to the city.

After the four-year job commitment, I want to continue providing support to the education sector in Cambodia…I hope I can contribute and make a better change

The entire nation of Cambodia could also benefit from the program, suggest the students who spoke with Southeast Asia Globe about their plans after their commitment.

“I will still continue working [abroad], but I will surely return to my country, Cambodia, once the right time comes,” said Sopheak. “My long-term goal is to establish the largest software company in Cambodia.”

“After the four-year job commitment, I want to continue providing support to the education sector in Cambodia, to improve the quality and standard more by implementing some sort of technologies into it,” said Huy Sophanna, 21. “I hope I can contribute and make a better change.”

“I will return to Cambodia and begin my dream of modernising Cambodia’s education system,” said Sok Sereiponna, 21. “I believe I could develop my skills, gain as much experience as I can, then I hope that will be the key for me to enhance the education system in Cambodia, which can help push this country forward to the next step of development.”

Tech will be key to raising Cambodia’s economy and making it competitive regionally and globally, said Okamoto: “We’re focused on IT because it’s the best way to leapfrog the economy over Thailand and Vietnam and other neighbouring countries that have far surpassed Cambodia.”

With a management team hailing from the likes of Microsoft, Accenture and the World Bank, visiting lecturers from universities around the world, and plans to bring millions of tourists and 100,000 residents, vKirirom has much to prove. And if it works as envisioned, Takeshi thinks the world will see more cities like this one – and it could even lead a global industrial shift.

“Communities based on sustainable development is the only way to preserve and enhance our quality of life in the future,” he said. “I believe our model of co-working, co-living and co-nature can and will be replicated throughout the world. Our project is to design our university to lead Industrial Revolution 4.0.”

This article was published in Southeast Asia Globe’s Education Special 2018. For more articles, click here.

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