Remote Cambodian Villages to Send and Receive E-mail
Via Moto-Bikes Closes the Digital Divide

BANLUNG, Ratanakiri, Cambodia, September 1, 2003. A project launched today in one of the world's most remote regions, Ratanakiri in northeastern Cambodia, will bring e-mail to 13 villages that have no telecommunications and can mostly be reached only by motorbike or ox-cart.

These villages have no water, electricity, phones, cell phone access nor television or newspaper delivery. They are far from health centers. Per capita annual income is under $40. But they now have e-mail.

One of the motomen part of this modern day "Pony Express."

At these villages' new schools which are equipped with solar panels on the roof to provide sufficient energy to run a computer for six hours, there is now an e-mail link via a motorcycle delivery system.

Early every morning, five Honda motorcycles leave the hub in the provincial capitol of Banlung where a satellite dish, donated by Shin Satellite, links the provincial hospital and a special skills school to the Internet for telemedicine and computer training. The moto drivers equipped with a small box and antenna at the rear of their vehicle, that downloads and delivers e-mail through
a wi-fi (wireless) card, begin the day by collecting the e-mail from the hub's dish, which takes just a few seconds.

Then, as they pass each school and one health center, they transmit the messages they downloaded and retrieve any outgoing mail queued in the school or health center computer that is also equipped with a similar book-sized transmission box, and go on to the next school. At the end of the day they return to the hub to transmit all the collected e-mail to the Internet for any point on the globe.

Each school also has a computer and e-mail-trained young teacher graduated from the Future Light Orphanage in Phnom Penh, including four women, who are the village computer teacher and e-mail postmaster. The children in the village are being trained to take over this function in a couple of years.

This program opens the village up to receiving and sending messages to the whole world and also doing Internet searches for information.

Schoolchildren are cheered on by Japanese Ambassador Gotaro Ogawa and Dr. Heng Tay Kry, Director of Calmette Hospital.

Children in the school are able to communicate with their donors overseas and tell them what they need for their school and studies; they can also communicate with other children in other villages via attachments typed in the Khmer font; teachers can send and receive reports and directives from the ministry of education; the village health worker can report instances of illness and send digital photos of such patients to obtain guidance from the provincial referral hospital and beyond from the Sihanouk Hospital Center of Hope in Phnom Penh and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in the U.S. which is already linked into a telemedicine program with the provincial hospital; any villager can send a message or grievance directly to the governor who has such an e-mail unit in his office and welcomes village communications to which he has pledged to respond. Newspapers can transmit their pages to the villages; villagers can announce their handicraft products and order goods from the market. Many other uses of this system will be developed by the villagers themselves.

The technology for this system was developed by First Miles Solutions a firm in Cambridge, Mass. in the U.S. run by recent graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of its founders, Amir Alexander Hasson, and his team has been in Ratanakiri for the past month to set this system up. The project is organized by American Assistance for Cambodia and Japan Relief for Cambodia which has built 225 schools all over Cambodia funded by private Japanese and American donors with matching funds from the World and Asian Development Banks.

A large number of firms and individuals have contributed to the launch of this pilot project and it is anticipated its example will be replicated to other areas of Cambodia and the world in the near future.

The key contributors to this pilot project include

Shin Satellite Corp. (Thai-Com), which provided the hub satellite dish and Internet connection
Asian Honda Motor Co., Ltd., which has donated five motorcycles
Japan Airlines for transportation
The Sasakawa Peace Foundation for funding portion of the startup costs
The Markle Foundation for contributing to the establishment of the telemedicine project in Ratanakiri
The Future Light Orphanage
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and Telecommunications of Cambodia
J.P. Morgan-Chase for the donation of 100 computers


American Assistance for Cambodia/
Japan Relief for Cambodia
September 1, 2003

Bernard Krisher

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