Noy Shoung has a bold prediction: by the end of 2006, more Cambodians will be using
open-source software applications in Khmer language than Microsoft software in English.
As deputy general of human capacity building at the government's National Information
Communications Technology Development Authority (NIDA), Shoung said that Cambodia
has the fastest growing number of open-source users in the world.
The software makes the program's source code available to the general public to change
and modify. This is different than commercial software such as that produced by Microsoft,
which carefully guards its code as a company secret.
Since the beginning of this year, NIDA has been working with Open Forum of Cambodia's
Khmer software initiative to translate into Khmer the Open Office software suite,
the open-source equivalent to Microsoft Office.
Javier Sola, coordinator of Open Forum of Cambodia, believes the applications will
be a hit with local computer users because they are the only provider of basic software
applications in Khmer.
One ambitious goal is to have the entire government administration using Khmer-language
software by the end of next year.
"We want Cambodians doing this in Khmer," Sola said. "You can't computerise
the government without doing it in its own language."
Having finished the software development, Khmer Open Forum began training around
350 teachers in August this year on how to use the technology, developing and revising
training materials as they go.
After the 20-hour training, students are awarded a certificate from NIDA recognizing
their ability to teach others how to use the Khmer software applications.
"Now I can share my computer [knowledge] with children in the rural areas,"
said Tourn Chan Thear, a teacher from NGO Enfants des Mekong in Sisophon, Banteay
Meanchey province. "It is more interesting for us and much easier for the students
He said the youths he teaches in grades 8 to 12 would have a much better chance of
eventually finding employment after learning Khmer open office.
On September 28 Javier Sola travels to Slovenia for the annual open office convention
to present the progress of open source software in Cambodia.