Development of Information and Communication Technologies in Cambodia

Since the computer made its debut in Cambodia, using Khmer-language characters has not been easy. Although different Khmer language fonts are available such as: Limon, ABC, Khek, Battambang, ABC-Zero-Space and Khek, etc., these non-interchangeable fonts have also undermined communication among khmer users.

Without font uniformity among users, users certainly cannot read e-mail, documentation, or web-pages without the exact matching font installed on their personal computer. Publishing information on to a Web site and weblog in Khmer language is labor-intensive. Seserak, a Cambodian student in Japan, says he has to input text with a word processing program, then convert the text into a graphic file, before posting it accurately on his weblog.

Cambodia Takes on US Software Giants in Battle for Khmer Computer Script, an article published in the Cambodia Daily in 2002:

“A government minister asked the man who established the first e-mail system in Cambodia if he could send e-mail in Khmer to his wife, who didn’t speak English. He was told he couldn’t.
That’s still the answer, more or less, seven years after e-mail came to Cambodia and five years after the arrival of the Internet. The people who designed the early computers didn’t speak Khmer, so the computers don’t speak it either.”

However, after a long-time struggle, Cambodia will soon join the international platform with its own standardized computer script, Khmer Unicode. Khmer Unicode enables computers and computer users worldwide to automatically communicate interchangeably.

Today more and more Khmer-language Web sites have been switched to Khmer Unicode. Khmer Radio Australia also recently converted to Unicode. In the meantime, users are required to have the fonts installed on their computer systems to be able to view text properly. It is believed that the being-developed Khmer-language Linux-based operating system and the new version of Microsoft Windows operating system will integrate Khmer Unicode. So far, the introduction of Khmer Unicode has made some impacts on software development in local language and improved communications.

In about five months, after the launch of its free weblog hosting service, Khmer Software Initiative, a software localization project, attracted 333 users. Every new post of every weblogger chronologically appears in one-page on the site. Some webloggers use this blog tool as an online announcement board, some write about technology issues, while others extract interesting news articles and relate a story of personal interest. The weblog tool, powered by localized-open source content management platform Drupal, is being used by this first ever local weblog service provider.

The Khmer Software Initiative project also unofficially announced the localization of a Linux distribution Derbian, an open source operating system, now in development. The efforts will pave the way for Cambodian non-English speakers to learn and work with computers without learning English. This significant effort provides a cost-free alternative to an expensive commercial propriety software that local residents could not afford.

In Khmer telecommunications, the Cambodia business telephone directory, Yellow Pages, has long been available on the web in English, but is now being developed in Khmer as well. The Khmer Yellow Pages will be made available as a printed book, an online directory, and also as a Windows-compatible software application.

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