About one-third of Cambodians are now connected to the Internet, with the number of online subscriptions increasing by 31 percent in 2014, according to statistics provided by the government Wednesday.
Auk Dorany, second member of the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia, said that as of January this year, there were just over 5 million Internet subscriptions in the country, up from about 3.8 million at the end of December 2013.
And Mr. Dorany said the overwhelming majority of Internet subscriptions were through mobile devices.
“Cambodia has two groups of users, the ‘fixed’ ones that use telephone or DSL lines, and those that use mobile devices including mobile phones and iPads,” he said. “98.67 percent of Internet subscriptions are from mobile devices.”
Javier Sola, director of the NGO Open Institute, said Internet usage in the country was closely linked to the uptake of smartphones, which are cheaper and more accessible than computers.
“To access the Internet, you need a device; computers grow slowly, phones are much faster,” he said.
According to Mr. Sola, the urban-dwelling youth population is largely responsible for the growth, noting that “those 25 to 35 years old have more financial resources, but those under 25 have more motivation.”
Facebook, popular among young people, is a key driver of the growth of the Internet, said Mr. Sola, who added that many users are not only consuming content, but increasingly producing it.
“The participation of people has increased. There are not so many passive users but rather active users, making the Internet a better tool for communication,” he said.
“Through the Internet, people can exchange their ideas without having to go through existing media which might not always be of their own opinion. So Facebook became a very important tool for the opposition during the last election” and users have continued to use this platform to express their opinions, he said.
Mr. Sola added that Cambodians’ ease of access to Internet was largely a result of pricing.
“It’s one of the cheapest countries in the world for Internet access. You can have all the access you want for $5 a month. This is very unusual. In a developing country, you pay $40 or $50 for that,” he said.
The new statistics come as consultancy firm We Are Social released a report Wednesday on digital and mobile growth trends in the Asia-Pacific region, which also showed significant growth in Internet usage in Cambodia.
“The most significant changes in internet usage came in Cambodia and [Burma], where the reported number of users grew by 414 percent and 346 percent respectively,” the report says.
Simon Kemp, the company’s regional managing partner, who authored the report, said the fact that the government had made data available for the first time this year meant the statistics were unreliable, but that it nevertheless illustrated an overall trend of Cambodians shifting online.
© 2015, Maria Paula Brito. All rights reserved.