You may not have seen Paul Blanche-Horgan, but he and his employees may well have seen you. As CEO of Ezecom, he is the man responsible for establishing numerous traffic and security cameras across Phnom Penh, a road-safety initiative that recently attracted the attention of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
To date there are 12 traffic and security cameras situated at Phnom Penh’s main arteries. They have been in place for almost two years and have been shown live on TV news programmes. The cameras themselves are operated from a central ‘command centre’ at Ezecom’s offices where they are monitored. The installation and operating costs of the cameras runs into tens of thousands of dollars including the fibre-optic connectivity and monitoring equipment. Dozens more traffic and security cameras are expected to be in place by the end of 2012.
However, anyone familiar with Cambodia’s internet providers may know Blanche-Horgan better as the man who helped pioneer and develop the country’s communications industry more than two decades ago. “We were the first to commercially introduce the internet to Cambodia,” says Blanche-Horgan, thinking back to his days with Telstra in 1997. “In those days there were only about 15,000 computers in the whole country. Nevertheless, the internet was essential. Without it, companies would not have been able to operate and development would have been stunted.”
Since that time, Cambodia’s communications sector has grown considerably. According to Blanche-Horgan there are now approximately 500,000 internet users – not including 3G mobile users – a number that is expected to grow by at least 200% per year for the next three years. According to the Englishman, the broadband industry as a whole is expected to be worth $1.5 billion by 2015.
" A big pillar of the 2015 Asean Economic Community will be IT and communications"
"The year 2015 could be an interesting milestone. It is the year when Asean plans to launch its Asean Economic Community. A big pillar of that community will be IT and communications."
Cambodia's geographic position at the heart of Asean puts it in an ideal position to benefit from the organisation's ICT (information and communications technology) Masterplan 2015, which includes provisions for an Asean-wide ‘broadband corridor’ as well as initiatives to develop ICT infrastructure and resources among Asean member states, he says.
In the meantime, Blanche-Horgan wants Ezecom’s nationwide fibre-optic network of 5,000km to further the country’s development. He plans to use the fibre optics at his disposal to provide educational opportunities to some of Cambodia’s far-flung provinces, and he is also investigating how the network can help some of the country’s rural hospitals.
"We are already discussing distance-learning facilities for schools, and we want to investigate the possibility of providing video conferencing for clinics and hospitals," says Blanche-Horgan. However, for now he is happy to be part of an industry helping provide the all-essential communication infrastructure that keeps Cambodia's companies 'ticking' and attracts new business.
"When it comes to IT infrastructure, Cambodia is really only just getting started. And as such, in some cases the networks and equipment being installed are more modern than those of other countries in the region. This will ultimately help Cambodia to attract more and more businesses to the country.
"What businesses want is reliability and reach," Blanche-Horgan says. "And that we can provide. We are connected by fibre to Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, and we are connected to the world via the Asian American Gateway and other major worldwide cables. That means that almost anyone from any country can come and do business in Cambodia."
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By Greg Castell