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Cambodia Could Worsen Its Digital Divide By Banning Internet Cafés Near Schools

BY Julia Wetherell | Friday, December 21 2012

An order from the Cambodian government to keep students out of Internet cafés could spell inaccessibility for many in a country where few have personal computers. If implemented, the proposed order will force Internet cafés with 500 meters of schools to close. As human rights group LICADHO reported, this would effectively shut down public Internet availability in downtown Phnom Penh.

“This heavy-handed effort to shut down affordable and accessible venues for using the Internet in Cambodia is not only legally unfounded, it is a transparent attempt to block part of the population’s access to independent sources of information through news sites and social media,” said LICADHO Director Naly Pilorge.

While Internet use in Cambodia is on the rise, a severe lack of infrastructure has stunted online access, with only 0.5 percent of the population regularly going online as of 2009. The country was only beginning to develop telecommunications systems when the Khmer Rouge came to power in the 1970s, bringing rampant destruction and social upheaval. Most reconstruction projects did not begin until the 1990s. The directive issued by the Cambodian government cites pornography, crime, and online gaming as social issues engendered by Internet use.

The proposed ban could worsen an all-too-present digital gap in Cambodia.

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