As an introduction to this course ICT4D, we initially discussed the various aspects of Information and Communication Technologies and the effects that technological access to Internet and Cellular phones has on the development of a nation. According to many studies including The Digital Economy Rankings of 2010 produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit “The Internet is now fundamental to commercial and social prosperity”, therefore in order for a developing country to thrive socially and economically it should aim to provide affordable access to such communication tools for the general population. Not only does the access to Internet benefit economic and social endeavors it also causes a huge impact on educators and students as it provides stronger educational resources.
Throughout the past four years, I have grown increasingly aware of the problems associated with education in countries such as Fiji, Cambodia, and Laos. Having traveled to these respective countries on volunteer trips working in schools and orphanages I have become more and more passionate about the development of education in developing countries. While I was in Cambodia no schools I visited had computers accessible to the students and the only access to Internet I could find was through an Internet Café down the street from my hotel. Although it did seem like there was low accessibility to technology, according to a report created by ITU, a United Nations Agency whose focus is on ICTs, “Cambodia is a textbook example of wireless boosting telecommunication development. It was the first country in the world where mobile telephone subscribers overtook fixed ones back in 1993. Cambodia began the millennium with more than four out of five telephone subscribers using a wireless phone, the highest ratio in the world.” In relation to class discussion this idea of skipping over landlines straight to mobile phones is called the Leapfrogging Effect. Is it curious that a country with such a high percentage of citizens who live below the poverty line is one of the first countries to experience high demand in cellular devices?
In recent years, with the growing popularity of reaching millennium goals and sustainable development government agencies and NGOs have paired up and measured different countries ICTs. According to the American Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact-book in 2011 Cambodia was 95th in the world for main- line telephone users (530,000) and 57th for cellular phone users (13, 757), however as of 2009 Cambodia was 167th in country comparison for Internet users (78,500). This large differential between the numbers of phones versus Internet shows that although Cambodia is in the right direction towards lessening the Digital Divide and provides adequate coverage in urban areas, it also represents a Digital Divide within itself and demonstrates how economical and social aspects of Cambodian society may be negatively impacted due to this minimal access. Not having available computers and Internet for students has seriously impaired their education that is only free in the mornings as well as the Cambodian business industry.
What is it that NGOs can do to help expand the access to Internet and broadband? What does Cambodia, the government and the general population, have to do to improve their living standards, education, and further develop their country?