The Ministry of Education on Tuesday announced an ambitious five-year plan with Metfone to provide internet access to 5,000 state education institutions across the country.
But a ministry official and experts said that many schools would be unable to take advantage of the initiative anytime soon, due to a lack of coverage, electricity and equipment.
The memorandum of understanding between the mobile operator and the ministry targets the country’s public schools, teacher training institutions, state universities, and ministry administration offices, according to a statement released on Tuesday.
Education Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said that thousands of schools were located in areas with electricity and telecommunications connections that would allow them to connect to the web.
“There are actually more than 5,000 schools in Cambodia that are able to access internet, but we chose 360 schools to do over July first,” Mr. Salin said.
The selected schools that will benefit from the initial rollout are located primarily in Phnom Penh and other urban areas, he added.
Sok Tha, director of the ministry’s recently created IT department, said that due to a dearth of computers in many schools, internet would have to be accessed through personal smartphones.
“Even if they don’t have [computers] they…can use their smartphone. Most teachers and students have smartphones, don’t they?” he said, adding that most secondary schools had at least one computer for administrative purposes.
According to Javier Sola, program director for the Open Institute, an NGO that develops technology to improve education, the most pressing hurdle preventing internet access at schools was a lack of electricity.
“There is a big part of Cambodia that has no electricity, especially in primary schools,” he said.
“Expansion cannot be very fast because basically electricity is still an issue.”
However, Mr. Sola said the ministry’s plan was a step in the right direction.
“More and more teachers have smartphones that can be used to access internet,” he said. “So I think it will be very beneficial to the education system in general.”