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Khmer-language software chasing Microsoft market

Khmer-language software chasing Microsoft market

Noy Shoung has a bold prediction: by the end of 2006, more Cambodians will be using

open-source software applications in Khmer language than Microsoft software in English.

As deputy general of human capacity building at the government's National Information

Communications Technology Development Authority (NIDA), Shoung said that Cambodia

has the fastest growing number of open-source users in the world.

The software makes the program's source code available to the general public to change

and modify. This is different than commercial software such as that produced by Microsoft,

which carefully guards its code as a company secret.

Since the beginning of this year, NIDA has been working with Open Forum of Cambodia's

Khmer software initiative to translate into Khmer the Open Office software suite,

the open-source equivalent to Microsoft Office.

Javier Sola, coordinator of Open Forum of Cambodia, believes the applications will

be a hit with local computer users because they are the only provider of basic software

applications in Khmer.

One ambitious goal is to have the entire government administration using Khmer-language

software by the end of next year.

"We want Cambodians doing this in Khmer," Sola said. "You can't computerise

the government without doing it in its own language."

Having finished the software development, Khmer Open Forum began training around

350 teachers in August this year on how to use the technology, developing and revising

training materials as they go.

After the 20-hour training, students are awarded a certificate from NIDA recognizing

their ability to teach others how to use the Khmer software applications.

"Now I can share my computer [knowledge] with children in the rural areas,"

said Tourn Chan Thear, a teacher from NGO Enfants des Mekong in Sisophon, Banteay

Meanchey province. "It is more interesting for us and much easier for the students

to learn."

He said the youths he teaches in grades 8 to 12 would have a much better chance of

eventually finding employment after learning Khmer open office.

On September 28 Javier Sola travels to Slovenia for the annual open office convention

to present the progress of open source software in Cambodia.

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