Online purchasing still unrealised as engine of economic growth, say government and private sector, due to lack of users, undeveloped online transaction facilities and high Internet costs
Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
An Internet user in Phnom Penh on Monday uses today.com.kh on, a domestic Internet site that markets its wares online. As with other sites in the Kingdom, online transactions are not available.
E-COMMERCE remains a marginal forum for domestic retail and trade, government and private-sector sources say, with human resources, online payment facilities and Internet usage remaining the biggest challenges to further development.
Nguon Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, said that significant progress in e-commerce remains unrealistic even though there has been development of key resources to boost online buying and selling.
"E-commerce is a must if we are to catch up with other countries [in online business] that are benefiting from this sector because it can help process things very quickly," he said. "But it depends on our capacity because it needs more know-how from people to engage more closely."
According to the latest UN Development Programme figures, Cambodia still has only 17,000 Internet subscribers, the second-lowest density in ASEAN, meaning the potential number of online consumers remains limited.
Younger people are becoming better trained and more interested in the possibilities of online trade, said Nguon Meng Tech, which he predicted should help its development.
Banks have few options for
Ken Chanthan, president of the Information Communication Technology Association of Cambodia, said Monday that Cambodia is only at the very beginning of e-commerce development.
Still, only very few companies have their own Web sites, he said, with a lack of suitable online payment facilities hampering e-commerce development.
However, there has been growth, he said, with Cambodia showing promise for the future.
"I think within the next five years, our e-commerce can catch up ... because our country has a large proportion of young people and a fast-emerging telecoms sector," he said.
E-commerce would be particularly useful in the current economic climate, he said, given its main strengths as a vehicle for business, namely cost-cutting, increased productivity and efficient payment methods that can boost customer satisfaction.
"E-commerce development remains a big challenge because Cambodia still lacks IT policies, an e-commerce law, other cyberlaws and transaction laws," said Ken Chanthan. "Development would be rapid if the government took serious action to help in terms of legislation, policies funding and technical assistance."
BI Group, a company which has launched two Web sites to sell goods online, typifies the problems that Cambodian companies looking to e-commerce development still encounter.
No payment online
Director Chea Sothy says that a lack of online transaction capabilities mean that his company can advertise products online - everything from computers to digging machinery - but that payment must be made in person.
"We still face many problems such as high Internet costs with slow speeds, high electricity costs, and banks have few options for facilitating online transactions ... there is no banking interconnectivity to facilitate local and international money transfers [online]," said Chea Sothy, who last week attended a three-day Greater Mekong Subregion forum on e-commerce in Kunming, China.
"E-commerce is very important for entrepreneurs to market and sell their products, and it can widely broadcast across the world, much more so than television," he said.