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Site Rides Rising Tide of Web Users

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The slogan for angkorone.com, a recently launched Web site, makes it networking goals known: “Khmers, unite, inspire, share.”

AngkorOne, which has become highly popular in a short time, uses networking tools similar to Facebook, allowing users to communicate with friends and family from across the globe. But it also does something that Facebook does not: it asks Cambodians using the site to help out others.

“A percentage of the profit will go to charity,” said Steven Path, a Cambodian-American who founded the site. “We want all Khmers living overseas, especially those with good jobs and money, to send in just $15 to buy a water filter for a poor family here.”

The Web site joins a number of others in Cambodia’s emerging information market, at a time when users are increasing and prices are falling, even as the technology improves.

The site is posted in English and Khmer, making it “easy for Khmers all over the world to use it and join the community of Khmers,” Path told VOA Khmer recently.

Angkor One is loaded with information on tourist attractions across Cambodia, and users can even book tour guides from the site.

“We want foreigners and Khmers abroad to see what Cambodia has to offer, so that they can visit our country,” said Path, 41, who left Cambodia when he was seven.

The Web site has proven effective in mobilizing people beyond their computers. A few weeks ago, for example, Angkor One organized a social event to bring groups of students and monks together to collect litter around Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom.

The site has become popular, too, ranking 29th most visited from June 22 to July 22, with only five Khmer-language sites ranking higher, according to Alexa.com, which monitors Web traffic.

Angkor One has emerged at a time when more and more Cambodians are using the Internet, especially with the introduction of a standard Khmer font recognizable by different computers. Most of these Internet users are young, primarily using the Web to network, according to an Open Forum survey. That allows more and more people to connect with each other over vast distances.

No accurate figure for Cambodian Internet uses is available, though the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications says 40,000 subscribers are registered with the country’s Internet service providers. The ministry says 219 Internet cafes are operating across the country in 19 provinces; more than 100 run in Phnom Penh alone.

And while Cambodia’s Internet rates remain higher than its neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam, Phu Leewood, secretary-general for the nation’s information technology authority, said the government was working to bring cheaper Internet access to the countryside.

Cambodian blogger Be Chantra said the site is well designed and could be poised as the leading social Web site in Cambodia.

“In terms of social networking, Angkor One is the first-ever made by a Cambodian, so in the future, if the site is run well, it will probably be ahead of the others,” Be Chantra said.

And because it also appears in Khmer, the site can be useful to non-English speakers in Cambodia, he said, as more young people access Khmer-language sites.

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