The first-ever Cambodia Youth Internet Governance Forum (yIGF) was successfully conducted on 23rd-24th September 2023. This 2-days event took place at the Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology (CADT) in Phnom Penh, the heart of the kingdom with the amount of attendees up to 200.Following the description on its website yIGF has aimed to raise awareness of youth on Internet governance-related topics and to encourage the young generation to have more active engagement in policy discussion and the decision-making process to understand their role in the future society, as well as to use the Internet in a safe way.This is one of the most successful tech events in Cambodia due to a number of reasons.1. Strong commitment from the whole teamThe credit for this success goes to the teams, Advisory Committees (AC), Organizing Committees (OC), and Volunteers.The AC plays a crucial role in navigating the course toward the right path. They brought the event to the country and recruited the OC. The AC also sought sponsorships, communicated with the policymakers, and guided the whole team to complete their tasks effectively in a timely manner.The OC consists of young and vibrant members who I believe will be the future leaders of this country. (I’m not joking 😉.) The team comprises many skillful people on a variety of topics. They worked as a team and produced a tremendous amount of high-quality work to ensure the event went smoothly and professionally.The website teamCredit also goes to the volunteer team who also worked so hard to contribute to the success of the event.Before the event, both OC and Volunteers worked days and nights to accomplish their jobs. Some would work with just a few hours of sleep for a number of consecutive days. You may have seen their work right at the event, if you’ve attended, or viewed the website and the social media engagement they have accomplished so far.2. InclusivenessAs stated on the website, yIGF is a dynamic and inclusive event that brings together youth, policymakers, industry experts, and civil society. People from various backgrounds came together to discuss Internet Governance, sharing experiences, networking, and learning from one another.Joining were students, social workers, government officials and policymakers, ethnic groups, people from provinces, NGOs, startups, etc. Besides joining as participants, some of them were volunteers, speakers, speaker coordinators, tech helpers, and MCs.On top of that, there were speakers from varied institutions as well, including the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Dot Asia, and more. Speakers were from Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, South Korea and many other countries.3. The themeThis year’s yIGF proposed a theme of “Digital Empowerment: Ensuring Access, Safety, and Opportunities for All” with three other sub-themes, such as the Introduction to AI, Digital Rights and Online Responsibility, and Cybersecurity and Data Privacy. Every topic proposed by the speaker must match these sub-themes.AI-related topics, digital rights and online responsibility-related topics, and cybersecurity-related topics are trending in today’s Cambodian society. People from all backgrounds are interested in AI and how it works, while individuals and NGOs are way more concerned about peoples’ ‘digital footprint’ and privacy leaks online, especially those who are working in areas of Child Protection.I presented \"The foundation of Web Security\"I helped Dixon with Khmer TranlsationAttendees were interested in securing themselves on the internet by learning new tips from experts like Chumrum Digital and other cyber security experts.Besides the breakout sessions, there were ‘Phum yIGF’ and ‘Multi-Stakeholder Conference’ roleplays where all participants were required to attend and learn something.Phum yIGF happened on the first day of the event where all people were encouraged to find out about digital currency–in this case Crypto Currency, the NFTs, and how the market fluctuates according to other side effects such as Hacking and Internet/Electricity interruptions. This session helped participants understand the risk of their investment in the market.Srymanit and I were the Crypto currency sellers (role play)Busy selling cryto currency (role play)The Multi-Stakeholder conference roleplay took place on the second day where some groups of participants were assigned a role to debate amongst each other. There were so-called ‘The Government Group’, the ‘Private Sector Group’, and the ‘Netizen Group’.Each group was given enough time to meet and prepare their questions and responses to other groups’ questions. The debate went well and the result from it was encouraging. The session was concluded by Mr. Thy Try, the executive director of Open Development Cambodia (ODC) who noted he had learned new tips from that debate and promised to bring them into the policy-making process with other stakeholders.The team representing the government meeting before the Multi-Stakeholder conferenceDuring the Multi-Stakeholder conference4. Engagement from all partiesThe event would not have been successful without the AC, OC, Volunteers, Speakers, and Participants. People were vibrantly communicating with one another during the session, the break, and even after the event.In my observations, people have made new friends, gained new knowledge, and raised new awareness of the current challenges in the digital sphere. Students may have good jobs through their extended network after graduation. Companies may gain more projects from potential stakeholders they met at the event.Another takeaway point is the Personal Data Protection law that is still under discussion amongst all stakeholders. I strongly believe that after the discussion, the law will gain more input and will be issued pretty soon. Since I will attend the Annual Meeting of the 18th Internet Government Forum in Kyoto, Japan next week, I’m more than happy to share my own input with what I will learn from the event via any means possible.All participants after the closing ceremonyTo conclude, I believe Cambodia’s yIGF 2023 would bring hope to every Cambodian citizen that they’d live in a safer world in the Industrial Revolution 4.0. It means they will be more cautious of what data they will share online and how much they should share, what links on the Internet are harmful and they will learn to use means that protect themselves from any cyber-attack. Furthermore, they will be aware of the trending AI technologies around them and they will learn to adapt. This will enable them to always be up-to-date with the job market.Without the help from ODC, I don’t think this kind of fruitful event can take place. I strongly hope ODC as well as other stakeholders will consider having yIGF repeat next year and every year.
The rise of internet usage in Cambodia is a sign of a digital revolution on a wider scale in different sectors for economic growth and digital lifestyle. However, regulation to better manage the internet and improvements in security and transparency in accessing the internet are needed to gain the full potential of the internet in an inclusive way.At the beginning of 2023, there were 11.37 million internet users in Cambodia, with a total of 22.16 million cellular mobile connections active, equivalent to 131.5 percent of the total population, according to Digital 2023: Cambodia. Cambodian internet users started to increase significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic with the demand for online purchasing and online learning, according to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.E-commerceCambodian citizens found new ways of living more conveniently while beginning to adapt to the usage of digital money transactions through bank accounts instead of cash during the pandemic. This led to a boom in the e-commerce sector in Cambodia. Online selling and buying via social media apps, food delivery apps, school, healthcare, electricity, and water payments are also done digitally via QR codes. Payment begins to feel at ease, saving time and energy with your smartphone and with just a connection to the internet or Wi-Fi.According to Statista, Revenue in the e-commerce market is projected to reach US$979.90m in 2023. In the e-commerce market, the number of users is expected to amount to 8.76 million by 2027. The cyber law and e-commerce law to manage and protect consumers are needed to better govern the safety and security of the online market in Cambodia. However, online buying fraud, online money scamming, hacking, and data protection are the issues when it comes to online purchases.TourismThe findings show that there is a correlation when taking and planning tips; tourists consider the functionalities of social media as significant.Next, the most frequent source of information used by respondents when planning travel and trips is often social media (43.6%). The second most popular is family and friends (43.6%), of which the respondents often use their family or friends as their source of information. Also, mobile App sites (35.6%) are often used as the third source with tourism information (35.0%) as the last source, based on research about the \"Effect of Social Media in Tourism (Case in Cambodia)\".Therefore, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, including Google search information and recommendations online for traveling destinations, are playing a crucial role in guiding and allowing tourists to access more information regarding their favorable traveling places in the country.Online EducationAccording to the Kiripost’s article (2023), the pandemic has led to a significant increase in online education in Cambodia, with at least three students enrolled in online courses. This has created great opportunities for online education businesses to enter the Cambodian market, with regional income from online education is projected to reach $1,485 million in 2022 and $2,555 million by 2026. However, a survey found that 78% of students prefer hybrid learning, while 14% prefer online education.According to a report by the Cambodian Education Forum (2021), online learning has revolutionized the way students learn, particularly in higher education by allowing access to technology tools, digital platforms, and the Internet. The official MoEYS Facebook page, YouTube channel, and other e-learning platforms offer over 200 video lessons, allowing students to access online learning anytime and anywhere. This innovative method of learning saves money and time, making higher education more hybrid and transformative on a global scale. Digital education has also supported the development of competency-based teaching strategies, as UNESCO states that teachers receiving high-quality support, including new teaching approaches, learning activities, and hygienic supplies, ensure continuous education for learners (Cambodianess, 2020).Social Media & EntertainmentCambodia’s entertainment industry is transforming to digital platforms and social media such as Youtube, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Telegram. Music videos, news, and a variety of content go online.Cambodia’s digital media market was valued at $74.87 million in 2022, a 17 percent growth from 2021. Video games make up the largest segment, worth $38.7 million in 2022, a 16.5 rise from 2021. Digital music revenue in 2022 was valued at $6.5 million, capturing only nine percent of the market share.Since the Internet is used widely and productively in various sectors in Cambodia, such as e-commerce, tourism, education, and entertainment. Safety and security with inclusive use of the internet are necessary to ensure everyone can obtain the opportunity and benefits of digital tools without harm or scams via cyberspace. Digital Government Infrastructure and Cyber Security are key strategic thrusts to ensure the quality, efficiency, and security of networks in the Kingdom.
The origins of the internet are rooted in the USA of the 1950s. The Cold War was at its height and huge tensions existed between North America and the Soviet Union. The intensity between these two superpowers led people to live in fear of the nuclear weapons possessed by two countries and the US realized it needed a communications system that could not be affected by a Soviet nuclear attack by establishing an independent communication method using the internet.At that time, computers were large, expensive machines exclusively used by military scientists and university staff only.The Internet started in the 1960s as a way for government researchers to share information. January 1, 1983 is considered the official birthday of the Internet.The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies.Do you know when Cambodia first used the internet?Cambodia started using the Internet for the first time in 1997, the opening history of the Internet era in Cambodia also begins during that time. The very first internet service provided was called Camnet Internet Service. The Camnet Internet Service is an Internet service provider operated by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Cambodia with the support of the International Development Research Centre of Canada. It has its headquarters in Phnom Penh city.Cambodia was connected to the internet via a 64 Kilobytes per second (kbps) satellite link to Singapore in May 1997.Meanwhile, Camnet had connected over 90 users and is taking on commercial clients, whileproviding a heavily subsidized service to government ministries, universities, and Cambodian NGOs for its first-time operation in cyberspace in Cambodia.On the commercial front, Camnet already faced stiff competition from a second Internet service, Big Pond, which was launched by the Australian telecommunications giant, Telstra, on June 2 1997. At that time in 2001, Cambodia internet price was based on prepaid internet cards, which cost approximately $3.33 per hour from the internet provider service (IPS) like Camnet, according to one case study report of the International Telecommunication Union Geneva, Switzerland. Messages used to cost $0.15 per kilobyte, which is about 150 characters of text. There is an hourly charge for dial-up Public Private Partner (PPP), so unless the files were truly enormous (software downloads, for example), the cost to receive them in Cambodia is negligible. Since the cost of the internet was high, the internet connectivity was limited even in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province had access to the internet, however, there were few Internet Cafes that initiated internet accessibility while there was no public access in the remote areas.Cambodia’s Recent Internet ExpansionLater on, the kingdom’s cyber world would become increasingly important. About 15 years later, the Internet has evolved into a central source for entertainment and information for much of Cambodia’s upper and middle classes. These changes began with the entrance of the first Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Big Pond and CamNet, into Cambodia, allowing a small group of people to access the Internet at a few coffee shops around the city. Nowadays, the internet and Wi-Fi are quite common in Cambodia with low prices and people can stay in touch with the online world almost everywhere including the coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, office buildings, houses and some public places that offer free Wi-Fi for the public and customers.There were 11.37 million internet users in Cambodia in January 2023, according to the Data Reportal report, Digital 2023: Cambodia. Access to the internet is now critical in the lives of Cambodians. Almost every element of our everyday life is linked to digital devices and cyberspace in the way we interact, share information, entertain, e-learning, money transfer, online shopping, and work remotely, among other things.