Information technology could become Cambodia’s biggest challenge, according to Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, who said Thursday the country’s poor technology infrastructure could widen the gap between rich and poor.
Addressing an information technology workshop, Cham Prasidh said the information age demands new skills, changes in economic and social policies, and shifts in cultural norms.
“This is a very challenging topic, especially for one of the least-developed countries like Cambodia, where information infrastructure is still at the very initial stage of development,” he told about 200 representatives from private businesses and government institutions.
Technology Day Cambodia at the Hotel Inter-Continental was organized by Thakral Cambodia, a subsidiary of the Singapore-based multinational corporation Thakral Group. Its business partners, including Compaq, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard, offered participants Internet-based ideas like e-commerce and e-government.
Presenters showed how developed countries like the US use information technology, which generates millions of dollars in electronic commercial transactions among businesses and streamlines the public’s dealings with government bureaucracy.
Radne Bryant, IBM Indochina’s general director, said the number of worldwide Internet users would increase from 200 million people in 1999 to 500 million by year 2003. E-commerce is expected to generate more than $1.8 trillion in business-to-business transactions and more than $180 billion between businesses and consumers.
He urged countries like Cambodia to first try reducing the cost of Internet access and encourage credit cards use for payment.
Sanjiva Dubey of Raffles Software presented ways a government could use information technology to improve governance. It could be used for taxation, criminal records, license registration, property registration, weather information, health management and employment, he said. To maximize the effects, he pushed for cyber laws and development policies and strategies.
Cambodia is still far behind neighboring countries in information technology. But as an Asean member, Cambodia is required comply with the Asean Information Infrastructure, adopted in December 1998. In October Cambodia has to report to an Asean economic ministers meeting about the information systems and action plans for a regional information network.
“We need to have a clearer idea of the ways and means we have to adopt to proceed in that direction,” Cham Prasidh said.