PM Calls Out Tech-Averse Officials

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday said the government’s technophobic rank and file were becoming a drag on the country’s development and risked being stranded on the wrong side of a growing digital divide if they failed to move with the times.

Speaking to more than 3,000 graduating students from the Vanda Institute of Accounting at a ceremony on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island, Mr. Hun Sen said that in contrast to the younger generation, many government officials were Luddites who lacked even basic computer literacy.

“In the National Assembly, there is one computer for each person,” he said. “But please ask yourselves, how many of those parliamentarians can turn that computer on?

“The Council of Ministers has computers that none of them know how to turn on, but that would not matter if, when we were busy and needed advice, we could use smartphones to send emails, or SMS messages or What’sApp [messages],” Mr. Hun Sen said.

The prime minister called on officials, from senators to secretaries of state, to set aside their insecurities and ask young people for help.

“I appeal to you, don’t be shy, call the young people to teach you…and you will learn faster,” he said, adding the National Police and military police deserved respect for seamlessly adapting smartphone applications into their daily work.

Mr. Hun Sen has been calling for greater fluency in computer technology for more than a decade. But the tables have turned since 2001, when then-Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh warned that a lack of technological infrastructure could widen the gap between rich and poor.

Now, about a third of Cambodians are connected to the Internet, 98 percent of them logging on via smartphones. Mr. Hun Sen said Thursday that some young farmers were now more tech-savvy than doctors.

“Buffalo boys are better at using smartphones than doctors; [they] sometimes post to Facebook from the buffalo field,” he said.

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