Provinces Get Valuable Resource: Information

TAKHMAU- Aiming to feed an information-starved country with Khmer-language data, the Asia Foundation on Tuesday inaugurated the first of 22 Community Information Centers that hope to connect even the most remote provinces to local and international news.

“There is no area of human life that is not affected by access or lack of access to information,” US Ambassador Charles Ray said be­fore cutting a ceremonial red ribbon with Kandal province Deputy Governor Mak Sam Oeurn.

Since most Cambodians live outside the capital, few benefit from the prominently English-language Internet services offered to city dwellers, the Asia Foun­da­tion’s Regional Information and Communications Technology Pro­gram Officer Tom Parks said.

The centers, equipped with soft­ware donated by Microsoft, aim to fill this void by connecting most provinces and municipalities to the Internet and to each other. A Khmer-language “portal” Web site will serve as a forum for discussion on topics such as hu­man rights and the upcoming Ju­ly elections, Parks said.

Each center, based in the of­fi­ces of a local NGO, will double as a print library, fortifying the country’s feeble information network, said library and information re­source adviser Margaret By­wa­ter.

Few libraries offer a small se­lection of English-language reference materials, with fewer still providing Khmer publications, Bywater said. She added that Cam­bodians have not maximized their research skills because few Khmer-language books are available. The Khmer portals, therefore, could provide the catalyst cru­cial to “developing the habit of seeking information,” Bywater said.

The project’s funding will last until September 2003, at which point other funding sources will be sought to sustain the centers, Parks said. The US-based Asia Foun­dation, which receives funding from the US government, may consider offering fee-based usage or charging NGOs in order to join the national information net­work.


Related Stories

Latest News