Just close your eyes a minute and think about the ways that your parents must have communicated with the people around them. Or, try to remember communication technology in Cambodia just 10 years ago. You will find that the changes that have been made over the past decade in the way Cambodians communicate is incredible, and future evolutions will be equally fast-paced.
The internet, accessed through computers and mobile phones, is the most important recent development in the way Cambodian’s communicate, and is now being distributed by over 20 internet service providers in the Kingdom, many of whom provide student discounts on personal internet packages.
These companies have placed particular importance on the youth demographic in their marketing campaigns, as can be seen on billboards, in magazines and on TV screens across the country, and, although the vast majority of Cambodians (over 95 percent) have never logged on to the world wide web, the country’s educated and urban youth are going online in growing numbers.
Chim Manavy, executive director of Open Institute, a non-profit organisation that works to develop Information Communication Technology for social and economic advancement, said that ICT is a highly important tool in keeping people connected.
“One of the most crucial roles of ICT is communication. It helps people network with their friends and other people in the world,” she said, explaining that people can get a wide range of information easily and stay updated by using the internet.
“The internet is our discussion panel,” said 19-year-old Chea Buddapong about how he and his friends us the web. “We discuss school assignments without having to gather together; we just sign onto the internet.”
Som Sitha, 27, an internet café owner in Phnom Penh, said that the majority of his customers are students who surf the internet for assignments, exams, entertainment and emailing and messaging friends.
EzeCampus, a recently launched joint project between the ISP Ezecom and the Ministry of Education, is providing free internet to 10 Cambodia universities to give students greater online access on their campuses.
Inge Olde Rikkert, the marketing manager of Ezecom (who has also contributed to The Phnom Penh Post as a freelance writer), said this project would provide unlimited online access to up to 65 thousand students.
Although the internet is becoming more widely available, particularly in the country’s urban centres, there are still many challenges in how people engage with information online. ICT skills and English proficiency stood out as the main obstacles constraining internet use among Cambodians, said Chim Manavy.
“It is very hard for those who have poor English proficiency to fully understand what was written on websites, and it is even harder for those who have no ICT skills,” she said.
However, Open Institute is working to provide training courses on ICT and, along with multiple news and Khmer social networking sites, are developing Khmer-language websites that will help Cambodians access information more easily. While a fully linked Kingdom is still many years away, Cambodia’s youth and young professionals are paving the way for future generations of internet users.