I don’t remember if it was Preetam’s idea or my idea, but at $20 a night, it was definitely worth going for the luxury room at Hotel Cara. Check it out – I have a feeling this is what MTV’s Real World would look like if based in Phnom Penh:

hotel cara

Phatry was the one who hooked us up with the deal. Phatry is one of these young, overachieving, global citizens who you start to encounter more and more frequently as you dip into Global Voices and the global blogosphere. He is a ‘Khmerican” – born in Cambodia, but raised and educated in the US. In fact, he’s from my hometown, Seattle, and on the way to last night’s bloggers’ dinner we talked about Blue Scholars, the Long Beach rock group Dengue Fever, and Asian gangsters from Los Angeles who are deported to Cambodia, a country most of them don’t remember (having emigrated to the US as infants) and with a language most of them don’t speak.

Phatry, sporting Converses and speaking almost entirely in American idioms, is using the internet to encourage more interaction between Cambodian-Americans (“Khmericans”) and Cambodians.

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khmer

I’m incredibly impressed with what the group of Cambodian bloggers who call themselves the “Cloggers” have pulled off with the first ever Cambodian Bloggers Summit. The first day of the conference provided a fascinating snapshot of 1.) how young Cambodians are leading their country’s cultural integration into the rest of the world, 2.) how IT companies are trying to expand the reach of broadband penetration throughout Cambodia, and 3.) how old school Cambodian journalists are having a difficult time adapting to the changes in online media.

The conference took place in a comfortable and mostly air-conditioned amphitheater at Pannasastra University of Cambodia.

Beth Kanter, Bridge-Blogger and Mother of Cambodian Children

200348310_d7741f94c9_m.jpgFor Beth, using the internet to learn more about Cambodia is also using the internet to learn more about the cultural heritage of her two adopted children. Back in the US she is the oracle of information about how non-profit groups and NGO’s can use social software to further their cause. Here in Phnom Penh she adjusted her message just slightly to explain how Cambodians can embrace web2.0. Her Five Steps to Khmer 2.0:

1.) Find people
2.) Have a conversation
3.) Listen
4.) Share
5.) Collaborate

Preetam Rai, Global Voices South East Asia Editor

1272401333_2e1b14cac5_m.jpgJust like Beth is the guru of web 2.0 for non-profits, Preetam has got to be the most knowledgeable person about the South East Asian blogosphere. He is based in Singapore and teaches online technology to teachers at a Polytechnic school.

Even though internet penetration is low in Cambodia, it turns out that Cambodia has a stronger presence on Global Voices than its neighboring countries because there are more Cambodian bloggers and a higher percentage of them write in English. These young bloggers are the cultural ambassadors of their country to the rest of the world.

DeeDee, School Girl Genius! Khmer-Cyberkid

deedee1.jpgDeeDee’s 10 minute introduction to why she blogs and what she got out of it put a big smile on my face. It had nothing to do with saving the world or strengthening Cambodia’s democracy – it was just about showing the beauty of her country, sharing her experiences in school, and learning from her peers and fellow students. DeeDee is also part of the team that brings Personal Information Technology Workshops to university campuses around the country, sharing tips about how to take advantage of the web.

Cyber Cambodian and English Vs. Khmer

From the first minute of the conference there was noticeable friction revolving around the issue of language. Here we were in Cambodia with a room full of Cambodians and yet the language of the conference was English.

In fact, one of the reasons that so many Cambodian bloggers write in English is due to the little support for the Khmer script on most operating systems. On a Mac if you’d like to see written Khmer on your computer, you need to pay $50 and even then Javier Solá tells me the support is limited. Thanks to Solá’s work on KhmerOS, however, Cambodian bloggers using Windows are now able to blog more easily in their native Khmer. And thanks to Sengtha Chay, as of just last week, WordPress.com is now available in Khmer as well.

I was relieved when they announced that the Cyber Cambodian panel would take place in Khmer and I was embarrassed by all the apologies the panelists made to the non-Khmer speakers in the audience – it should have been the other way around. I won’t got to deep into detail about the Cyber Cambodian panel because 1.) I didn’t understand a word they said and 2.) Beth has a good post summing up the panel thanks to the translation of Lux.

Later in the day there was a debate between Javier Solá and Preetam Rai (moderated by John Weeks) about whether it is better to blog in Khmer or English. Here is the case for both sides, bulleted:

Why blog in English:

* You can also blog in your own language, but when you blog in English, you’re sharing your lives and your community with the entire world.
* It provides important information
* You are making Cambodia more visible on Google and you are portraying Cambodia from a local’s perspective rather than a foreigner’s perspective.
* English is more search engine friendly – more online software is available in English than Khmer.
* Bloggers in Cambodia can connect with their relatives who live in the USA and other countries.

Why blog in Khmer:

* Blogging is about communication. When you are blogging you are trying to communicate something.
* You are writing to a targeted audience and you should speak the language of that audience.
* Do you want to be read by a lot of people all over the world or a specific group of people in your community?
* Are you trying to reach the 1 or 2% of Cambodians who speak English or all Cambodians who can access a computer?
* As it is, there is an over-abundance of information on the web in English, but there is a lack of content on the web in Khmer and you can help change that.
* Your language has your culture in it. Language and culture go together. So if you are trying to communicate with other Cambodians, you are limiting yourself if you do it in English.

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