The access to a reliable internet connection is a key factor in education. While internet service providers can improve their reputation in this competitive market by offering free internet access to the education sector, experts are concerned the government might use the step to justify the closure of hundreds of internet cafes near schools.
Internet service provider EZECOM said yesterday in a press release that more than 65,000 students across Cambodia are taking advantage of the company’s EZECAMPUS project, referring to figures from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.
In August 2012, EZECOM agreed a deal with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to provide free internet services and computer equipment to 50 schools and teacher training centres across the country.
“This is a perfect example of how the public and private sectors can work together for the betterment of the country – in this case our young people and students,” Im Sethy, minister of Education, Youth and Sport, said in the release.
MekongNet president and chief executive Sok Channda said it is common for internet service providers to offer cheap internet access to schools.
“For many years we have provided free internet access to some schools in poor areas in Phnom Penh and the provinces. For some universities we offer a 50 per cent discount. However, we also need to maintain our quality of service and so we can’t provide this to the whole education sector,” she said.
“I am optimistic that young lecturers and teachers are keen to incorporate the internet into their lessons, especially for student papers that require extensive research,“ blogger Chak Sopheap said yesterday.
“The internet is a powerful educational and advocacy tool that should be available to all Cambodians, including students and children,” Licadho director Naly Pilorge told the Post yesterday.
The government’s support for the EZECOM project, however, is at odds with December’s circular ordering the closure of all internet cafes within a 500-metre radius of schools and educational institutions.
“We hope this initiative is not to replace the operation of hundreds of internet cafes around schools that were ordered temporarily to be shut down late last year,” Pilorge said.
Ek Vandy, secretary of state for the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, told the Post yesterday that the ministry does not have the power or the right to close internet shops.
“Our only interest is to prevent children from playing games, viewing pornography or committing crimes instead of learning,” he said.
The International Monetary Fund said in early 2012 that there were only about 500,000 internet users in the country, representing three per cent of the population.