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Smartphone ownership exploded since ’13: study

A man tries a new smartphone at a shop in central Phnom Penh last year. A new study shows that 39.5 per cent of Cambodians now own a smart phone.
A man tries a new smartphone at a shop in central Phnom Penh last year. A new study shows that 39.5 per cent of Cambodians now own a smart phone. Eli Meixler

Smartphone ownership exploded since ’13: study

The number of Cambodians who own at least one smartphone has almost doubled since 2013, helping put the Kingdom on track to having more than half of its population accessing the web in about a year, according to a new study.

Almost 95 per cent of Cambodians say they own some kind of phone, while the percentage of Cambodians who own at least one smartphone now stands at 39.5 per cent, according to the study Mobile Phones and Internet in Cambodia 2015, released yesterday.

The higher number of smartphones is playing a key role in boosting internet connectivity, which could help push the percentage of Cambodians who access the internet from about a third today to over half by the end of 2016, says the study, which was written by staffers from the Open Institute in Phnom Penh.

“While youth are leading the demand, with a much higher penetration rate, the relative growth in older users is higher, as it is coming from a much lower base in percentage terms,” the study reads.

The figures for smartphone ownership, however, show a notable divide between urban and rural and those with schooling and without.

Slightly over 51 per cent of urbanites have at least one smartphone, compared to 34.3 per cent in the countryside, while the gap in smartphone ownership between those without formal education and university attendees is even wider, at 15 per cent and 82 per cent respectively.

Nevertheless, the proliferation of smartphones has catapulted Facebook to Cambodia’s second-most important source of news this year, surpassing radio and edging ever closer to overtaking television.

Sengkong Bun, a 25-year-old NGO worker and blogger, noted that smartphones with Facebook allowed regular Cambodians to skirt television news, which is dominated by stations favourable to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“This definitely will have a lot of effect on politics – in the provinces they have access to state-media only, and have very few computers,” he said.

“I think this will change the political current in favour of the opposition [Cambodia National Rescue Party].”

Anthony Galliano, CEO of local social media marketing firm Dynamo Digital, said he expected smartphone demand to continue to rise, comparing owning a non-smartphone as “equivalent to owning a black and white TV”.

“The rapid adaptation to smartphones is primarily due to the fact that they are extremely affordable, the huge demand for internet access which operators have provided cheaply, and that by having this internet access, [people have] the ability to get unbiased information, learn, and be entertained,” he wrote in an email.

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