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Cambodia’s streets go digital

Google Street View’s vantage of Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace from Sisowath Quay
Google Street View’s vantage of Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace from Sisowath Quay. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Cambodia’s streets go digital

The imposing facade of Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace, Mondulkiri’s towering Bou Sra waterfall and sweeping vistas from a pagoda atop Bokor Mountain can now be explored from all angles online.

Building on its digitisation in April of the Angkor temples, tech giant Google today is to launch Street View imagery of Phnom Penh and more than 10 provinces, allowing users to essentially walk around Cambodia on the internet using Google Maps.

The imagery has been collected over the past year by cars equipped with panoramic camera gear and by individuals wearing specialised camera-mounted backpacks.

While internet penetration is growing in the Kingdom – with close to four million users as of last year – Google expects Street View will “help create better awareness of this country and attract more tourism”, according to a statement.

The Tourism Ministry, which supported the project, could not be reached, but Phnom Penh Tourism Department director Tang Sochet Krishna said he believed the imagery would be useful to both Cambodians and foreigners.

“But some of our people who live in remote or rural areas cannot use it,” he added.

Street View has raised the heckles of privacy advocates in many countries as its cameras have often caught people in compromising situations, but Krishna dismissed such concerns.

“I do not think it is a big problem, but it depends on how it is managed. It is not important for us to be interested in such useless things such as arguments [captured] along the street or other individual issues,” he said.

According to Google, Street View blurs faces and other identifying characteristics such as licence plates. The company says it is also “extremely responsive” to requests from individuals for further blurring of images.

Restaurateur and Cambodia Hotel Association president Luu Meng said he believed that if a “certain level” of privacy was ensured, hotel and restaurant owners would welcome the new technology.

“It’s a great thing for the consumer,” he said, adding that businesses could adapt new marketing strategies in line with the technology.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MOM KUNTHEAR

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