Your Excellencies, Ministers of ASEAN and Ministers of Partner Countries;
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors to the Kingdom of Cambodia;
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!
On behalf of the Royal Government and People of Cambodia, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to Your Excellencies, Telecommunication and IT Ministers of ASEAN member countries, Ministers from other partner countries, ASEAN Secretary General as well as Ambassadors, members of delegations and all distinguished guests who are here. Today marks another important event for the Kingdom of Cambodia to host the 7th ASEAN Telecommunication and IT Ministerial Meeting in the Siem Reap province of Angkor – the ancient Capital of the Khmer civilization and the land of our wonder Angkor complex heritage.
Indeed, the 7th Telecommunication and IT Ministerial Meeting (TELMIN) and other relevant meetings in the next two days are very timely organized as the Royal Government of Cambodia is actively promoting the implementation of policies and strategies to develop the Telecommunication and IT sector, aimed at narrowing the Digital Divide between Cambodia and other countries in ASEAN and in the world. This would contribute to reducing poverty and supporting development, and helping gain appropriate benefits from regionalization and globalization.
Socio-economic environment at the present time clearly showed that South-East Asia has reached a favorable stage of economic integration and regional cooperation in all sectors. In this spirit, all 10 ASEAN member countries have firmly committed to cooperation for mutual benefit of all members. In this regard, the Royal Government of Cambodia commits to continuing and deepening this cooperation through regional community integration, focusing on narrowing development gap among ASEAN member countries, and pooling the ASEAN members and other development partner countries to joint the implementation of “Initiative for ASEAN Integration”. Among other, Telecommunication and IT cooperation plays a vital role in this initiative.
Last year, the Ministers of Telecommunication and IT successfully convened its Sixth Ministers’ Meeting in Brunei Darussalam on the 18th-19th September 2006. The ASEAN Ministers approved 11 projects and set many important directions and strategies for enhancing ASEAN cooperation in telecommunication sector. At the same time, the ASEAN Ministers agreed on the Brunei Darussalam Action Plan for enhancing ASEAN’s capability to improve ASEAN competitiveness in Telecommunication and IT sectors, aimed at expanding the internal integration of ASEAN as well as connecting ASEAN economy to the world economy.
One year after the Sixth Ministerial Meeting on Telecommunication and IT, we have worked together very closely and smoothly to develop the sector to become a pre-requisite tool for all spectrums of our people’s livelihood. We have recognized that Telecommunication and IT sector plays a very important role in promoting national and world economic growth. In the Telecommunication and IT sector, we have also enhanced close cooperation with partner countries including People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Japan and India.
Specifically, the motto for this-year Ministerial Meeting is “IT and Telecommunications: Reaching Rural Area”. The selection of this motto reflects the recognition that there are still many gaps of IT within ASEAN members and within each respective member country of ASEAN. As we already know that, in the knowledge-based society, the role of telecommunication and IT is becoming increasingly important like many other economic resources such as land, labor and capital. However, the development of technology has created differences in geo- economics and from country to country. This gap is certainly a priority issue in the economic framework of each country, especially gap between urban and rural areas. Indeed, for most countries in the region, while there is an abundant usage of mobile phone and IT services in the urban area, they noticed that in some rural areas, especially in remote areas, there is still no functioning telecommunication networks yet. This situation is common among most of ASEAN member countries, especially in the least developed member countries. For example, presently in Cambodia there is about 12% of the population using telephone, of which around 45% is in the urban area whereas only 1% is in rural area.
This gap seems to be less significant if we just give a first glance at it. However, when this gap is addressed, the real benefit from this disadvantage is enormous. For example, there is a report which showed that the use of mobile phone in rural Bangladesh can increase farmer’s income by 20%. Mobile phones can substantially reduce costs of communication and enable them to closely monitor the market price of goods from the urban area. In the recent past, they could not access to such kind of information. Moreover, the power of obtaining sufficient information improves the poor’s bargaining or negotiation power on price in consistent with the production cost. This allows them to obtain an appropriate profit from their trade activities. Recently, reports by the World Bank and other agencies similarly found that the stunning development in Africa was due to the improvement in information and transports via telecommunication and information technology.
Therefore, I believe that the selection of this motto for this year Ministerial Meeting is very timely since it responses to the need of the whole ASEAN in enhancing economic growth, reducing poverty and sharpening its comparative advantages. However, achieving this motto is still an enormous challenge for each ASEAN member country in their sought for an appropriate and suitable solution to the Digital Divide.
In fact, Cambodia has a great need to develop the information technology and telecommunication sector in order to support economic activities and communication services which increase significantly and quickly every day. After the Liberalization Day on the 7th January 1979, the Post, Information Technology and Telecommunication sector has been rehabilitated and strengthened itself gradually until now. It has made remarkable positive changes as well as contributed to security, safety and national development. It also serves as gateway to access to information and the need in daily communication of our people. The future priority of the Royal Government is to continue expanding this service coverage country wide with a better quality up to regional and international standard and at appropriately low price. This can be done by introducing policies, strategies, legal framework and institutional mechanism which is appropriate and comprehensive, as well as by attracting and channeling more capital investment in the fundamental infrastructure for IT and telecommunication sector in order to create a favorable and attractive environment for private sector participation in a healthy, competitive, and efficient manner in accordance with the market economy principle that have been internationally practiced in the region and the world.
In this context, the “Rectangular Strategy” of the RGC has clearly set out the policies for the development of postal, IT and telecommunications sectors through the enforcement of the following measures:
– Promoting investments on key infrastructure in IT and telecommunications sectors, especially in high-capacity fiber optic network which will contribute effectively to the development of rural telecommunication network.
– Establishing international quality and cheap telecommunications networks in all major urban areas countrywide.
– Introducing a national standard for construction projects and operations of telecommunications and IT services, including a standard system and standard for the use of computers and the Internet.
– Strengthening postal infrastructure as well as institutional capacity to improve this service.
– Expanding radio and television broadcasting networks to increase the efficiency and to facilitate media and postal services.
While implementing the above measures, the RGC has also placed particular focus on the promotion of broad-based usage of IT in all aspects of the government’s operations, aiming to improve security and safety control as well as storing documents and basic data, and to increase the efficiency of work communication and to strengthen transparency in the government’s work which is a crucial part for the process of democracy and good governance.
The RGC sees great potential and opportunities in the cooperation of ASEAN IT and telecommunication sectors for fulfilling our efforts to achieve the national development policy agenda, as stated above. Clearly, human and institutional capacity building is the important key in these operations. Therefore, I would like to request that ASEAN telecommunication and IT ministers and ministers of partner countries to keep the particular focus on this problem. In this context, I believe that the establishment of “ASEAN Telecommunication and IT Fund” is the key to further accelerate the pace of program implementations and action plans in telecommunication and IT sectors. I also believe that the fund will contribute substantially to our effort to reduce digital divide among ASEAN members.
Furthermore, I strongly hope that ASEAN Telecommunication and IT ministers do acknowledge contribution from the private sector in helping to achieve this objective, and further cooperate with one another to create a special attractiveness of ASEAN to attract the participation of private sector in this crucial sector. Indeed, the member governments are directly responsible for creating a conducive environment, which encourages investments from the private sector in Telecom and IT sectors. Thus, I would like to take this opportunity to warmly welcome and to express my profound appreciation to our development partners including ASEAN and non-ASEAN private business sectors that have actively contributed to the rehabilitation and development of the telecommunications and IT sector in Cambodia so far. We are particularly proud of companies that emerged from our ASEAN members such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam for having looked at Cambodia as an ideal place for their investments.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the ASEAN. Cambodia is extremely proud to have contributed appropriately to the regional efforts toward achieving peace, prosperity and harmony in ASEAN since the first day of its membership, through complying strictly with the principles of democracy and market economy, respecting and protecting human rights, ensuring peace, stability and national reconciliation. Although Cambodia is one of the youngest members, which has relatively weaker capacity among other ASEAN members, we are determined to act as an active member participating in all ASEAN’s work effectively, equally and equitably. We have a strong hope that the efforts and determinations of the RGC and its people, together with the generous supports from ASEAN and non-ASEAN partners, will help Cambodia to achieve its ambitious targets.
I hope the 7th Telecommunication and IT ASEAN Ministerial Meeting will produce fruitful results which will bring new ideas to sharpen the competitiveness of the Telecommunication and IT sector in the region and to transform this sector into an important mean to enhance economic growth and reduce poverty.
Finally, I wish Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen with good health and safety during your stay in our ancient Siem Reap province and please spare some time to visit Angkor which is the great symbol of Cambodia’s long-standing civilization and culture. May I declare the opening of the 7th ASEAN Telecommunication and IT Ministerial Meeting from now on.