CAMBODIA held its first information technology seminar on August 24. Called "IT
2000-Technology Day Cambodia", the event, sponsored by Thakral Cambodia Ltd,
brought together dozens of business executives and Government officials to focus
on the challenges Cambodia faces as it grapples with a global explosion of computer-related
services and technology.
The Minister of Commerce, Cham Prasidh, speaking at the seminar, noted that the Government
would need the support of the business community to help bring Cambodia into the
"We, the Government, are going to design policies but we need the private sector,"
Prasidh said. He said the Government viewed information technology as a means of
reducing the gap between the rich and the poor and called for "a crash program"
to raise the skills of the population.
Educational institutions were cited as a priority where an infusion of computer technology
could be of immediate benefit.
An advisor to the Council of Ministers, Pan Sorasak, told the Post that the Ministry
of Education has already set up a new program called "School Net" whereby
three high schools - Lycees Sisowath, Beng Trabek, and Bak Touk - in Phnom Penh will
be provided with computer labs equipped with Internet simulators.
Many of the computer industry's heavy hitters were represented at the seminar, including
Compaq, IBM, Microsoft, and Hewlett Packard.
Radne Bryant, General Director of IBM Indochina, noted that Internet use was skyrocketing
worldwide. Around 250 million people now use the net, he said, with this figure expected
to double to 500 million by 2003.
E-commerce is one area that is witnessing triple-digit growth. According to Radne,
in the Asia Pacific region e-commerce revenues are growing 100% a year, with a 1999
figure of $5 billion projected to top $40 billion by 2003.
In Cambodia, the most visible sign of the spread of computer technology is in the
simple use of e-mail services. According to Bill Herod, Information Officer at the
NGO Forum, "about 8,000" people now use e-mail in Cambodia, while just
five years ago the figure was "only a handful".
In a related event, the Faculty of Pedagogy awarded certificates in computer science
to seven students on August 31. This was the first time the faculty has awarded certificates
in this field.