Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tech camp brings Silicon Valley to Kampong Cham

Tech camp brings Silicon Valley to Kampong Cham

Oum Vantharith, 28, gives a presentation on the emergence of Khmer Wikipedia in Kampong Cham
Oum Vantharith, 28, gives a presentation on the emergence of Khmer Wikipedia in Kampong Cham. AFP

Tech camp brings Silicon Valley to Kampong Cham

Kampong Cham may be a long way from Palo Alto, but one Silicon Valley institution has found its way to rural Cambodia: technology conferences.

Over the weekend some 600 people attended a two-day networking event in the province, which was hosted at the provincial capital's Chea Sim University of Kamchaymear.

BarCamp, with topics including Wikipedia and social networking, and more than 50 educational sessions on information technology, was open to the public and free.

Some 130 technology enthusiasts came from outside the provinces, some making use of special no-fee bus rides from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

“I have many [Facebook] friends from different provinces, and we were finally able to meet at BarCamp,” said Eang Kearovak, a 29-year-old Cellcard merchant from Kampong Cham.

BarCamp is an international conference structure that was first used in 2005 in California. Anyone can organise a BarCamp using an online wiki system, and to date it has been held in more than 350 cities worldwide.

While BarCamp has had eight sessions in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang, this was the first event held away from the large urban areas.

“We targeted the big cities, with the large universities, but we also want to target smaller cities,” said event organiser Be Chantra, who stressed the importance of involving the whole country.

Javier Sola, program director of Open Institute and BarCamp participant since 2008, said that Kampong Cham’s central position in northeastern Cambodia made it accessible to a greater number of rural people.

“It’s a key place, and it has universities, so you’ve younger students who are more interested in technology.”

Tep Sovichet, who co-led a conference on the emergence of Khmer Wikipedia, said that previous BarCamps had inadvertently excluded many people in rural areas.

“People in the provinces did not know how to join. They think about their budget and time. But if we come to the provinces, it is OK for them.”

Oum Vantharith, who co-led the session with Sovichet, said that the Kampong Cham BarCamp had a noticeably different flavour from the events he has attended in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

“In Phnom Penh, it’s more of a local unit. Here, it’s more diverse, with Kampong Cham youth and people from other provinces,” Vantharith said, adding that the participants at his session, who he estimated were 70 per cent Kampong Cham residents, left the session with far more knowledge than when they entered.

“Before we started our session, we asked the audience [about] their background with Wikipedia. Most of them really didn’t know or had little experience with the movement.

“Now they are aware that Wikipedia exists in their language, and they can edit the site. It gives them a chance to get involved.”

Vantharith added that increasingly intense competition among internet service providers and the influx of inexpensive, Chinese-made smartphones is making home internet access increasingly affordable for rural people of modest means.

Nheong Chanthou, a 28-year-old BarCamp volunteer from Kampong Cham, said that her mind was opened to thinking deeply about social networking.

“I have had Facebook for a year,” said Chanthou, who accesses the internet primarily from a smartphone. “But I’ve never socialised a lot, so it was very interesting to learn more about the possibilities of [online] communication.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all