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Cambodians flock to the net

A young woman uses a social media application on a mobile phone yesterday in Phnom Penh.
A young woman uses a social media application on a mobile phone yesterday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Cambodians flock to the net

Internet use in Cambodia grew a staggering 414 per cent since January 2014, but penetration still remains relatively low at 25 per cent, according to a new report from a Singapore-based consultancy firm.

The Digital, Social and Mobile in APAC 2015 report, published yesterday by We Are Social, in association with the Singaporean chapter of Interactive Advertising Bureau SEA, said that more than a third of people in Asian-Pacific countries now use the internet. Comparatively, the global internet penetration rate, or percentage of the population online, is 42 per cent, the report states.

In addition, the new analysis says the number of mobile social media users is set to reach 1 billion by the fourth quarter of 2015.

“Mobile social is the hottest digital trend in APAC at the moment though, with the number of people in the region accessing social media from mobile devices jumping an impressive 32 per cent in the past year, to reach 900 million,” the Singapore-based firm We Are Social said on its website.

Sok Puthyvuth, president of ICT Federation Cambodia, said a low starting point would explain the rapid growth in internet use in the Kingdom, but that decreasing costs of access and improved coverage should see this rise continue. About 80 per cent of the traffic was being driven by Facebook and YouTube, Puthyvuth estimates.

He added that increased awareness on the value of the internet was needed.

“I think it’s only a matter of time until users recognise and capitalise the potential and benefits of internet,” Putyvuth said. “The question is how do we speed up the process, so that Cambodia can grow faster to catch up with the other countries.”

The saturation of mobile connections compared to the size of the Cambodian population is 157 per cent, or 24.20 million subscriptions, according to the report.

Thomas Hundt, CEO at Smart Axiata, said the data didn’t clarify what metric was adopted to define a user. Nonetheless, users would likely have multiple SIMs and devices, and there is still space to increase connections, he added.

“As we emerge into a connected world, an “Internet of Things”, but also considering an estimated unique user penetration between 8 [million] to 10 million only, yes, there is still potential to grow the number of connections,” Hundt said.

Mobile internet use is expected to drive increased online activity and Paul Blanche-Horgan, the CEO of internet service provider Ezecom, said that with low 3G and 4G costs, the next two to three years will see increased data usage.

According to the We Are Social analysis, active users accessing social media via the mobile phone last year increased 108 per cent in Cambodia.

Blanche-Horgan said consumers can now buy a smartphone for $60 to $70 and access their favourite social media sites.

“If you look around town, you will see tuk-tuk drivers with data-enabled phones, and it’s not a rich man’s game,” he said.

The report says the number of active social media users in Cambodia is at 2.4 million, a penetration of 16 per cent, 100 per cent rise since January 2014.

Anthony Galliano, CEO of local social media marketing firm Dynamo Digital, said this growth figure represented a stable trend over the last three years, and he expects it to accelerate in the coming two years.

“The growth has been substantially fuelled by increased internet access, so there is a direct correlation between growth in internet users, as access availability broadens, and social media users,” he said.

“Social media may very well be the first port of call for a virgin internet user.”

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