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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gains made in fighting IT pirating

Gains made in fighting IT pirating

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090421_15.jpg

But Cambodia remains major seller of unlicensed software.

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BLOOMBERG

Officially licensed software produced by companies including Microsoft make up only about 5 percent of total sales in Cambodia, where many of the computer programs in use are pirated.  

DESPITE Cambodia's status as a regional leader in software piracy, government and private sector officials said in recent interviews that the situation is improving, in part because of the formation earlier this year of a national committee to combat the problem.

Pily Wong, country manager of Microsoft's Cambodia office, said the most recent data provided by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a software trade organisation, indicates that more than nine in 10 Cambodian companies "are not using genuine software".

Our people are still poor and it has become their habit to use copied products.

By comparison, he said, 35 percent of companies worldwide and 59 percent of companies in the Asia-Pacific region were estimated to be using pirated software.

But Pily Wong said he was encouraged by the government's decision to create in January a national committee for intellectual property rights chaired by the Ministry of Commerce.

"This shows the strong will of the Cambodian government to respect international laws, and it's a very encouraging sign which will definitely attract more foreign investment," he said.

Var Roth San, the head of the committee, said one of its goals was to work with companies such as Microsoft to bring down the price of licensed software, "because so far we have never had good cooperation" with software companies.

"It's difficult for people in Cambodia to use licensed software because our people are still poor and it has become their habit to use copied products," he said.

Since opening its Phnom Penh office last year, Microsoft has worked to lower the price of software for NGOs, educational institutions and individual students, Pily Wong said.

He added that the enforcement of laws banning the use of pirated software was just as important as lowering prices, but the problem could never be fully eradicated.

"Even in developed markets such as Singapore or the United States, piracy still exists" in part because "there are always people who don't want to go by the law", he said.

He said it was important for consumers to pay the listed prices for software, as companies such as Microsoft depend on that revenue to fund software improvements.

"We spend a lot of time and effort to develop our products and to keep them evolving with new functionalities in order to help people, help business and increase their productivity," he said.

He acknowledged that people using unlicensed products are "sometimes not even aware that they have been the victim of pirated software".

Sao Volak, the chief executive of Campura Systems Corporation, a Microsoft certified partner, said the piracy problem in Cambodia is similar to that in other developing countries, adding that "almost 100 percent of home users use pirated software".

He also said he believed the situation was likely to improve, however, noting Microsoft's effort to expand its presence in the Kingdom - which has included the establishment of an extensive network of retailers - has made it easier for consumers to obtain software licenses.

Pily Wong said the problem of piracy was "an industry problem", meaning "it's not only related to Microsoft". 

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