Pirated computer software accounted for about $50 million in losses to the Cambodian economy every year, an industry expert said yesterday.
According to Pily Wong, president of the ICT Business Association, about 95 per cent of the computer software used in Cambodia is counterfeit, crippling the local software industry and incurring additional expenses for private companies protecting their data. On a broader level, it resulted in a loss of tax revenue, he said.
“It’s not [only a] loss for the software editors, but also for IT retailers, private companies and [represents a] loss in tax revenue for the government,” Wong said.
“Due to a lack of capacity to fight against pirated software, students graduating in computer programming [have] fewer opportunities.”
In Cambodia, as in other developing countries, pirated versions of software are attractive — and, some would claim, necessary — because they are affordable, Sok Yeng, founder and technical manager of NETPRO Cambodia, an IT support company, said.
He said that even though local companies were aware of the weaknesses inherent in using illegal software, many businesses could not afford certified software.
“The cost of licensed software is very high compared to [the level of] local income. That’s why most Cambodian people have difficulty affording it,” Yeng said.
However, he added, the situation was improving and an increasing number of companies, especially foreign companies, were using licensed software.
Ly Phanna, an adviser to the Ministry of Commerce, said that although Cambodia was a poor country, it had to respect copyright laws.
As long as software counterfeiters continued to infringe copyright, there would be no creation and innovation, which would have a negative impact on Cambodia’s image, he said.
“The Ministry will take all necessary action to uphold the law and build a brighter future for the young generation,” Phanna yesterday told 200 IT-shop owners at a seminar on the impact of counterfeit software on Cambodia’s economy.
According to Wong, as long as law enforcement remains weak, illegal software will continue to be a viable option for many companies.
“It’s like owning a jewellery shop but not bothering to lock the door at night: people will come and take your products away,” he said.