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Developing public e-services enhances rural lives

A recently completed academic study has found that the rising use of telecommunications (telco) in rural Cambodia has been associated with rising living standards.

The study, undertaken by doctoral candidate Ouk Tom, conducted research in 13 villages in Kouk Prich commune, Kirivong district, Takeo province. Tom surveyed 2757 households comprising a total population of 13161 people.

The paper concludes that villagers living in this rural area have benefited from rising living standards, and that this was the result of mobile consumption in their lives. The communities have chosen mobile messaging services for disseminating news and advice which have beneficial effects on their incomes.

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Villagers share and access information on farming and local businesses and services such as financial services, education, and market information.

In terms of finance solutions, the proportions of people using e-services included:
• Wing 56%
• Truemoney 34%
• E-Money 5%
• AMK (Agora Microfinance Institution Plc.) 5% of villagers

Tom, a Ph.D. candidate at the College of Public Administration, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, PRC, said, “The community impact [of e-services] is closely linked to the concept of commune inclusion, and can be viewed as facilitating the capacity to buy goods and services through accumulated savings, commune production, and participation in the economy by families and the wider community.”

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These solutions can be accessed through mobile networks. The study adds, “The solutions and activities can be accessed through social media such as Facebook instead of using traditional verbal face to face communication, and this enables direct contributing to decisions that affect one’s life and social belonging to a network of family, friends, and neighbors.” The study observed that small businesses located strategically in rural areas are appointed to provide mobile money services on behalf of WING.

“The popularity of developing public e-services through mobile networking is because of the reduced expenses and time to those villagers,” Tom said. “I found that the farmers sent or shared posts which were important for their agricultural methods or which helped improve their daily lives.”

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Tom added that the study discusses both public and private sector developments and includes a number of networked communication systems such as, SMS technology, Facebook, Twitter, line, WeChat, Telegram, LinkedIn, and YouTube which can be of interest to communities wanting to communicate quickly.

The most important source of news for the 13 villages of the commune was Facebook/Internet (73%), followed by TV (13%), newspapers (4%) and radio (10%). For farmers in the commune, Facebook was the most important source.

The report also says that millions of rural smallholder farmers struggle for access to local and national markets that could lift them out of hunger and poverty. It points to the World Food Program initiative called Virtual Farmers’ Market (VFM) as a good example of how to leverage the digital communications boom to increase market access and improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers for good.

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