At the start of this school year, I entered into an essay competition. It was the Essay Contest for Young People 2020, and the theme was “A Dream I Want to Make”. Below is what I wrote and submitted. I named it “A Fire of Technological Passion” because it essentially talks about and illustrates (in a way) the relationship that I have with technology. It was an extremely fun, yet challenging opportunity, and I loved it. Let me know what you think!
The time was around the end of 2011. My dad had just brought home an Apple iPhone 4, an incredible piece of technology back then. I, a curious and naive six-year-old, did not even know what it was when I saw it in his hand, but I was the most ecstatic I had ever been. When my sister and I got our hands on the phone, we were captivated by what it could do and lost for words to express our joy — and for hours. It was a wonderful moment for us. That was the time I was introduced to technology, and it changed my life forever.
Growing up as a kid in Cambodia, a developing country in Southeast Asia, I have always been fascinated with technology. Little-boy me considered it to be magic. It could do numerous complicated and amazing things so easily and instantaneously. And it kept getting better. Whenever I was presented with an opportunity to interact with or learn about technology, I had never turned it down. Technology lit inside of me a flame of interest and curiosity, and it has been burning with passion ever since. However, it did not take long for me to realize that technology was scarce and expensive, especially here in Cambodia.
The realization took its toll on me, and from time to time, it still does. I just believed that technology was such a useful and helpful tool, whether it was to assist someone in completing tasks or being entertained. I thought that many wondrous things could be done with it. At the time, knowing that only a small portion of the nation had access to technology was somewhat discouraging for me and my fire, considering I was relatively young and new to the world. But I could not let that unfortunate fact weigh me down. Hence, I swore and was determined to bring everyone technology, so that they, too, could get their creative hands on it and experience the same emotion I had when I first interacted with technology. It was one of the first dreams I had.
Today, in Cambodia, most people in urban areas have access to technology, which, of course, is great. But many in the countryside, or rural areas that are distant and not populous, do not. The world is ever-changing, and some, which includes us Cambodians, are still unable to experience it. I want to do something about this. For a country to develop and move forward, its people must do so first, so how do I get, or help get, more people access to technology? This question continues to linger in my mind. Earlier this year, during my fourth year at the Liger Leadership Academy, the school which I now attend, I joined a project and was able to find a possible answer to that question. That project was Solar Pi.
Solar Pi is a project started in 2016 with the aim of introducing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education into government schools with solar-powered computer labs. Currently, two computer labs, with only one being powered by solar energy, have been installed in two small schools, both of which are located in Takeo, a province in the southern part of Cambodia. With these computer labs, students have access to a variety of computer programs, which they can learn how to use. The Solar Pi team also developed a custom curriculum for students to follow. The students take a computer class, which consists of learning 3 main programs: FreeCAD, a software for 3D design; Scratch, a program for its own block-based visual programming language; and Pencil2D, a software for 2D animation. To assist them in learning the programs, tutorial videos have been made by several Liger students as well.
Every now and then, I think about the students in Takeo who are using the computer labs we installed, following the curriculum we wrote, and watching the tutorials we made. I think about the students, the progress they could make, and what they could accomplish with the technology we have given them. I think about the dream I had as a boy almost 9 years ago. It is quite a bit to take in sometimes. It brings me joy knowing that they now have new educational materials to learn from, different resources to work with, and tools to use. I have achieved a fraction of my dream, and I am immensely proud of it.
To me, just the thought of changing someone’s life is already huge. Thus, to actually create that impact is truly a great accomplishment. And me being a part of Solar Pi has helped make that happen. I was, and am, extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to be involved in such an impactful project. I look forward to the next time I visit the schools in Takeo, and I cannot wait to see how much the students will have gained from the computer labs.
I wish I could tell six-year-old me what he will do in the future and cheer him up from the realization that not every individual had access to technology back then. I am sure he would like that. In spite of that, I still have quite a long way to go. Innumerable people all over the world still do not have access to technology, and I have yet to fully attain my dream here in my own country. The same question remains: how do I bring every person technology?
Bringing technology to everyone can be done in many different ways. I believe that Solar Pi is a fantastic project that can be easily replicated not just here in Cambodia but in other developing countries as well. And that is so because of one main reason: price. When we think about technology, we may picture costly products or devices. However, the computer that the Solar Pi team uses is the Raspberry Pi; specifically, it is the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. The Raspberry Pi is cheap and tiny compared to other computers, but it is an incredibly capable and versatile machine. It can be modified to fit your needs and do numerous things. Speaking of price, in addition to the Raspberry Pi, one of the two computer labs we installed in Takeo functions on energy from the sun (hence the name of Solar Pi), which also helps mitigate expenses. This, creating and running projects similar to Solar Pi, is one way to get everyone technology.
The year is 2020. It has been almost 9 whole years since I was introduced to technology, found a penchant for it, and simultaneously felt heartbroken that not all the people had access to it. It has been almost 9 whole years since I dreamt and determined that I would work to the fullest of my capacity to bring the Cambodian citizens, especially those in rural areas, technology because I wanted them to be able to use and interact with it, too. It has been almost 9 whole years since then, and my flame of fervor and love for technology has only grown. I envision a future where all the people of Cambodia have technology. I have taken an enormous leap towards achieving my dream, and I promise I will only continue to move closer.