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ICT event focuses on regulation, investment

Kingdom’s only technology expo looks at structural issues

I hope over the next two years we will bring down the cost of Internet access."

REGULATION and investment proved the focus at the opening of Cambodia’s only international information and communication conference Thursday, as industry leaders joined top officials to discuss the Kingdom’s burgeoning technology sphere.

Hundreds of participants joined the World Expo, which will run for three days on Phnom Penh’s Diamond Island, where government representatives outlined plans for development, and members of the private sector presented their products and services.

Director General of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC), Mao Chakrya, emphasised the need for Cambodia to boost domestic Internet traffic and develop submarine network links.

“I hope over the next two years we will bring down the cost of Internet access and other services,” he said.

The importance of effective regulation was also emphasised.

Moa Chakrya outlined plans to create a separate regulator for the sector, which is currently overseen by MPTC, while audience members emphasised the importance of passing laws on copyright and e-commerce to boost private sector development.

The conference comes just two days after the Asian Development Bank (ADB) reviewed US$1 million worth of technical assistance for the government to develop its telecommunications policy.

In a report on it Web site, the ADB emphasised the need for a telecommunications law – now in the pipeline – which “will play a useful role in resolving commercial disputes with little need for regulatory intervention.”

The ADB said the government needed “different sections” of the MPTC to improve “transparency, efficiency, policy, regulation and ownership interest in Telecom Cambodia”.

Relations between the private sector and MPTC have been strained in recent months, with Internet service providers (ISPs) voicing united dissatisfaction over the issuance of overlapping frequency licences and plans to centralise Internet traffic through a state-run hub.

However, the conference proved an opportunity to address the issue. During the meeting, MPTC expressed a willingness to work with the private sector to overcome disputes.

“We have consulted with operators now and will work on a plan to bring the issue for proposal,” said Mao Chakrya.

Some ISP representatives believe the centralisation plan will stifle the private sector, and on Thursday they submitted their views to Minister of Finance Keat Chhon.

Conference discussions also highlighted the potential for development and investment in the IT and telecoms sector.

“Look at the recent history of Cambodia and you will see people who don’t hold degrees from universities such as Harvard or Yale, but people who were at the right place at the right time and can spot opportunities,” said Phu Leewood, secretary general of the National ICT Development Authority (NiDA).

Members of a discussion panel that included IBM’s Steven Deskovic and Beeline’s Gael Campan highlighted potential areas of growth in the next five years, especially in rural and youth markets.

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