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World Bank Offers Rural Telecom Grant

The World Bank announced Thursday a $2.6 million grant to the government to build up telecommunications access in rural areas.

The World Bank said in a statement up to 52,000 poor households, or 260,000 Cambodians, would benefit from the grant, which will provide a subsidies for telecom providers in otherwise “commercially unviable” areas.

The grant, which will go toward developing the provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear and Pursat, “some of Cambodia’s poorest,” said Qimao Fan, the World Bank’s Cambodia manager.

“The project will focus both on landlines and mobile phones, but the government wants more in mobile phones than landlines, because the installation of hand phones is a lower cost than landlines,” La Narath, secretary of state at the Telecommunications Ministry, said.

Users of mobile phones and landlines in the cities and towns are higher than in rural areas, he said. “But now we it is very difficult to estimate between rural and city residents mobile phone users,” he said.

Chin Bunsean, another secretary of state for the ministry, said in a statement “bridging the ‘digital divide’” was a priority of the government.

“It’s time that the people in rural areas are able to benefit from the same services, at the same quality and prices, that the people in the cities have been enjoying for so many years,” he said.