Today I had the great opportunity to be a participant of a Open Forums workshop about the use of internet in Cambodia. I learned a lot, could listen to the discussion and met some people I already knew from former meetings.
First I would like to say thank you to the organizers and sponsors. A very concentrated workshop, interesting topics and speakers. And by the way thanks for the translation service. Great job!
There are some typical issues in Cambodia regarding internet development. The price for using internet is high, the coverage area is small, mainly the cities, there is not knowledge of using the internet and there is the language barrier: The most internet sites are in english, just a few are in Khmer. Another obstacle is less electricity especially in the provinces and rural areas.
Starting with 6000 users in 2000 there were 44.000 internet users in 2007 - what is only 0.3 percent of the population. And: the statistics could be wrong, sometimes they count just official subscribers, not the people using this subscription.
How do people use the internet? Like in the whole world. As I learned from the speakers, male Cambodians are chatting and gaming, while females are mainly looking for educational documents.
Kith Changkrisna, who was speaking for NIDA, a governmental institution for developing IT in Cambodia, presented some numbers of internet and mobile phone users. Only 35.000 fixed phone line users are just a few compared with 1.5 million mobile phone users. 16.000 people seem to be internet subscribers, 6.500 are using ADSL, 1950 Broadband.
The internet connection in Cambodia is limited by the backbone: 150 mps comes from a satellite connection while 100 Mps are through optical fibre cable, connected to Vietnam and Thailand.
As Channda Sok, CEO of ISP Angkor.net explained, its not just the problem of international connection to the word wide web. The main reason for the relativly high prices are the fees and taxes. From a 49 US$ sales prices the government got 37 US$ for renting the line. Per law its not allwoed to use own land lines, she said. That makes it impossible to lower the prices, she said. For example, the governments renting costs of a line from Phnom Penh to Battambang is about 3000 US$ per month. You need a lot of costumers there to get a return of these costs.
Although NIDA is working on a IT policy and a masterplan of develop the IT in Cambodia, there are still many problems to be solved. John Denny, a consultant in education, explains, that also cultural obstacles, like that girls better stay at home than to study, low education levels and high costs for school , have to be fixed.
And even the teachers are not really prepared for the future, he said: Just 6 percent of all people working in the educational sector have a bachelor degree.
John solution: bring small, energy saving computers to school, install e-learning software and train the teachers.
So whats the conclusion? The government have to decrease the fees, have to invest in education and infrastructure. There should be more real competition in the ISP-market. Also students have to stay longer in school, because there is a lack of well educated employees. And: There should be a business starting wround the interet. Not only based by IPSs, but also based on e-commerce. Thats the next important step, I think.