Sokhna Vor, pictured left, accepts the "Best Social Innovation Technology" award during the 2020 Cambodia Information and Communications Technology Awards.
Earlham alum founds award-winning data science academy in Cambodia
October 13, 2020
A data science academy co-founded by 2015 Earlham College graduate Sokhna Vor has been named “Best Social Innovation Technology” during the 2020 Cambodia Information and Communications Technology Awards.
Sponsored by Cambodia’s National Institute of Posts, Telecoms and Information and Communication Technology (CICTA), the award recognizes products, services, or digital accomplishments of private companies or non-government organizations that use information and communications technology to solve the problems of the public and society.
“We’re committed to the growth of our nation,” Vor said about DataU, which he co-founded in 2019 and has grown to become Cambodia’s leading academy for advanced data science.
“The Cambodian genocide in the late 1970s left a scar on our country,” he said. “Today, our youth is striving to overcome our tragic history by actively learning in-demand skills and working vigorously to transform and grow our country. They are hard-working, hungry to learn, and resilient. Because Cambodians aged 14-30 comprise one-third of our current population, the future of our nation depends on them.”
Vor is the latest Earlhamite to be recognized as a catalyst for good in a changing world. The 2020 CICTA was judged by leading industry executives and government officials. In addition to the “Best Social Innovation Technology,” five other awards are given for excellence in the areas of e-government, digital innovation organization, digital research and development, digital content and tech start-ups.
“With Cambodia's mostly untapped potential and relatively affordable cost of training compared with the Western world, we predict a shift in focus from low-skilled labor dependencies to innovative, high-income, and skill-based occupations,” Vor said. “It was a proud and memorable moment to be recognized and celebrate our continued mission in building youth skills for life-changing careers, solving the skill gap for tech and data talents, and supporting the nation’s growth.”
Vor, a native of Cambodia’s Pursat Province, arrived at Earlham in 2011 after finishing high school on scholarship at the United World College of Southeast Asia in Singapore. He earned degrees in economics and international studies, and was one of the College’s first participants in a career immersion program that placed him in an internship with Care.com. He also organized many Asian cultural activities on campus and was a leading member of the chess club.
Off-campus study opportunities allowed him to travel to Shanghai, China, where he later interned at Asia Tech Source, a global sourcing company for international trade founded by Gerry Cooper, an Earlham College graduate and board member from the Class of 1966.
“I liked the strong sense of community at Earlham and the opportunity to participate in work-study, cultural exchange abroad, curricular activities, and post-graduation preparation,” Vor said. “Earlham has continued to shape and enrich my values around personal integrity, mutual respect, commitment to social meaning and global understanding. These values drive and are deeply entrenched in the kind of work and scale of impact I strive for post-graduation.”
After graduation, Vor co-founded Mekong Big Data, a consultancy firm in Cambodia, with his business partners from the United Kingdom. The firm brings data solutions and services to businesses and organizations in Cambodia so they can make data-driven decisions.
“What we learned was that many of our client organizations desire to develop in-house capabilities with our expertise,” Vor said. “Due to the lack of skills and supplies, we decided to establish a sister company, DataU, to meet that need and develop the future workforce.”
Vor is a managing partner for the academy, which also employs an executive and teaching team. DataU offers an accelerated four-month program that prepares participants to become data scientists and digital leaders. Trainees tend to come with some industry experience, are about 22-26 years old and have a university degree major in computer science, math, accounting, engineering or business management.
“Trainees are supported with a dedicated career team to secure a high-paying career anywhere in the world,” Vor said. “Our classes follow a world-class curriculum that has been designed in close collaboration with industry experts and are taught by international experts, ensuring they graduate with the hard- and soft-skills they will actually need in the workplace of the 21st century.”
Vor said his Earlham education gave him the foundation he needed to be successful.
Vor also founded a data community in Cambodia to connect data enthusiasts and professionals. He also serves as a member of Global Shaper for Phnom Penh Hub, a global community by World Economic Forum for young impact shapers to drive dialogue, action and change.
“I became more well-rounded as a student, more entrepreneurial and socially conscious,” he said. “I'm grateful that Earlham has grounded me with a humane foundation and interdisciplinary skill, which continues to inspire my lifelong pursuit of making the world we live in a better place.”
Brian Zimmerman, director of media relations