In a country where TV and radio are so popular, mobile phone is now a new means to bring news to Cambodians nationwide.
Nearly 60 percent of the population of 14 million are mobile phone users, according to a recent report from BuddeComm, a telecommunications research company. That’s a major jump, from around 690,000 (with three service providers) less than a decade ago.
With this high mobile phone penetration (and now nine providers), what impact will it bring to the Cambodian population?
A 2010 study by the BBC World Trust Service and UNDP, “Youth Civic Participation in Cambodia,” found that about 50 percent of phone owners use the device to listen to the radio, while only 5 percent use it for the Internet.
Advertisers have noticed the opportunity to increase Internet consumers. These days, a series of ads run on Cambodian TV that portrays youth hanging out at cafes with friends and using touch-screen phones to catch up on the news of the day over cups of coffee.
The latest generation of phone network, 3.5G, is now billed as way to offer faster mobile Internet speed. More and more Cambodians are likely to make use of the faster speed and improvements in phone technology to absorb information.
Phin Santel, a prolific blogger inclined toward social media, responded to a question I recently posed on Google+, a new networking site that aims to compete with Facebook: “to read a book is not easy but I usually read news via my mobile.”
Mobile networks are competing for customers by introducing the latest technology, bringing broadband Internet speeds over the new 3.5G network. Some have offered free Internet access for a year as a way to compete in this crowded sector. These networks also understand “access on the go,” a rising demand among young Cambodians with their new smartphones and touch-screen devices.
“The mobile is good for news and quick surfing, no doubt,” smartphone user Dara Bunhim told me. “But it won’t replace books. It’s too distracting.”
In a recent tweet, Sok Pongsametrey, a software engineer in Phnom Penh suggested that city residents especially are embracing new mobile devices: “I can see that on the net, they’re so excited waiting for #iPhone5 arrives, many sites in #Cambodia share the rumors.”
Youth civic participation in Cambodia