ech camp brings Silicon Valley to Kampong Cham
Author: Bennett Murray
Kampong Cham may be a long way from Palo Alto, but one Silicon Valley
institution has found its way to rural Cambodia: technology conferences.
Over the weekend some 600 people attended a two-day networking event in the
province, which was hosted at the provincial capital's Chea Sim University
BarCamp, with topics including * Wikipedia* and social networking, and more
than 50 educational sessions on information technology, was open to the
public and free.
Some 130 technology enthusiasts came from outside the provinces, some
making use of special no-fee bus rides from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
“I have many [Facebook] friends from different provinces, and we were
finally able to meet at BarCamp,” said Eang Kearovak, a 29-year-old
Cellcard merchant from Kampong Cham.
BarCamp is an international conference structure that was first used in
2005 in California. Anyone can organise a BarCamp using an online wiki
system, and to date it has been held in more than 350 cities worldwide.
While BarCamp has had eight sessions in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and
Battambang, this was the first event held away from the large urban areas.
“We targeted the big cities, with the large universities, but we also want
to target smaller cities,” said event organiser Be Chantra, who stressed
the importance of involving the whole country.
Javier Sola, program director of Open Institute and BarCamp participant
since 2008, said that Kampong Cham’s central position in northeastern
Cambodia made it accessible to a greater number of rural people.
“It’s a key place, and it has universities, so you’ve younger students who
are more interested in technology.”
*Tep Sovichet, who co-led a conference on the emergence of Khmer Wikipedia,
said that previous BarCamps had inadvertently excluded many people in rural
*“People in the provinces did not know how to join. They think about their
budget and time. But if we come to the provinces, it is OK for them.”*
*Oum Vantharith, who co-led the session with Sovichet, said that the
Kampong Cham BarCamp had a noticeably different flavour from the events he
has attended in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.*
*“In Phnom Penh, it’s more of a local unit. Here, it’s more diverse, with
Kampong Cham youth and people from other provinces,” Vantharith said,
adding that the participants at his session, who he estimated were 70 per
cent Kampong Cham residents, left the session with far more knowledge than
when they entered.*
*“Before we started our session, we asked the audience [about] their
background with Wikipedia. Most of them really didn’t know or had little
experience with the movement. *
*“Now they are aware that Wikipedia exists in their language, and they can
edit the site. It gives them a chance to get involved.”*
*Vantharith added that increasingly intense competition among internet
service providers and the influx of inexpensive, Chinese-made smartphones
is making home internet access increasingly affordable for rural people of
Nheong Chanthou, a 28-year-old BarCamp volunteer from Kampong Cham, said
that her mind was opened to thinking deeply about social networking.
“I have had Facebook for a year,” said Chanthou, who accesses the internet
primarily from a smartphone. “But I’ve never socialised a lot, so it was
very interesting to learn more about the possibilities of [online]
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