The successful laptop experiment

‘I can conclude that young people are always open to listen proposals and those proposals must keep vision for a best society.’

In 2009 I did an experiment with all my students of journalism in Sihanoukville: I told them something like this:

‘When I studied journalism in my city, I didn’t have actually computers, but I used an old typewriter.

You are then fortunate we got a donation of computers from the Netherlands and we thanks the benefactors that made it possible. They believed that computers are very important tools in the formation of all of you.

We need more computers, but I feel like a really beggar to request more computers from abroad and I hope our benefactors will not forget us and will continue sending us educational material.

Now well, all of you come from rural areas and poor villages and it is the reason why you are here. By sure, many of your families cannot afford to pay superior studies to you.

But I invite you to try and get your personal laptop computers.

I know it is hard. But let us think a little in many of our social behaviors. Every moment we see people expending in parties. Many complain they are poor, but at any moment they invite you to their wedding and, in Cambodia, you need to have some money to marry and it can be about 3 thousand dollars. If we think for a while, 3 thousand dollars is 42 times the Cambodian minimum wage!

When you go to many poor places, you can see that many families have motorbikes. It is of course very useful for work, however, most of our students (poor) come to study by motorbikes. We cannot say that owning a motorbike in Cambodia is to be rich, but it can cost at least 1 thousand dollars (14 times the minimum wage!)

Then we have the fever for cell phones. In 2010, according to the Royal Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, there were 7,891,879 cell phones! If our national population is 13,8 million Cambodians, it means that more than 50% of us have a cell phone. The other 50% probably have not a cell phone because they are children! The same with motorbikes, cell phones become a very important tool of communication and work. It is easier and cheaper to put a cell phone antenna, than telephone cables. However, you can see too many cell phone users getting the best labels and expensive brands and many of them belonging to the poor group. Of course, it is not just to buy the phone, but you need to feed it with $$$ credit. As I see many of our poor students talking by phone per hours – they say they profit the free credits provided by the phone companies – we can calculate an expense of at least 5 US dollars per day. If that is real, the expense becomes 25 US dollars per week and 100 US dollars per month! As it is too much, let us reduce a little: 2 US dollars per day (buying credits to talk with friends, bf or gf…), gives 14 US dollars per week and 56 US dollars per month… As you say you are very poor, probably you expend 56 US dollars of your father’s 75USD minimum wage in calls to your peers & bf/gf!

Parties! All of us love parties. Globally, we can say something that is very human: there is always money to buy beer or wine!

Then, evidently, there is some money around in Cambodia. The issue then is about priorities.

Why we do not expend that money in buying things we really need?

Let’s see: it is useful to have a motorbike, but it needs gasoline too. Then you can use moto-taxis. If I am a student, I don’t need a cell phone. I need to buy books and other academic material. In the future, if I get a good job because I am a good technician or a professional, surely I can afford to buy a cell phone for work.

Let us buy a laptop computer. It keeps more electricity than the desktops and I can bring it everywhere. The laptop can be an excellent tool to study and to develop my knowledge.’

This small speech said a couple of years ago has produced very good results. Many students followed the advance, they did practice more austerity and got their own laptops. Some of them sold their motorbikes and they continued coming the same to the school. They didn’t die because they had to use moto-taxis or bicycles or even walking. Many of them sold their cellphones – the change here came also because laptops have the possibility of Skype and chats that are free! so they continue talking with peers and bf/gf… making that also they must have their own laptops…! Others, especially those coming from orphanage, made their Christmas wishes to their traditional benefactors !

I can conclude that young people are always open to listen proposals and those proposals must keep vision for a best society.

Let us change social behaviors and we must start with children and youth.


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About Albeiro Rodas

Albeiro Rodas (in Cambodia Sky Ly Samnang), is a MA in Digital Communication, independent journalist and a Salesian of Don Bosco from Amalfi, Colombia, based in Cambodia since 1999. He is the creator of the Don Bosco schools of journalism in Sihanoukville and Kep with young people from poor communities and the founder of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund. Medal for Social Commitment UPB (2010); among the 100 more upstanding Colombians abroad (Marca Colombia, 2012, and among the 12 Colombians that are making this a better world 2013 (

3 responses to “The successful laptop experiment”

  1. Jary C. Villanueva says :

    There are Cambodian nowadays who are indeed good or shall we say Computer wizards. Despites of their lack of chance to have materials needed to become computer literate,and masters of this lap technology , still they were able to have a grasp of it even in some paliative materials only. In fact a lot already of these valuable youth are acquiring knowledge in computers thru limited schools in either Sihanoukville or Phnom Penh. We can never dowplayed their dedications and weather the challenges for having such skils in the future.

    What I really don’t understand why the Cambodia government was not able to support this endeavours for Cambia youth. It seems that the way I am hearing it almost 90% of all the schools in Cambodia, be it elementary, high school or college seems to be a paying schools. So enrolling to acquire basic knowledge become difficult and scarse. Unlike in the Phillippines that most of the Colleges are paying but also so many are without any need of tuition fees to pay.Not to mentions the vocational schools in our country that always there with open doors for students who want to study for free. And what made me proud of also , there are rich fellow and families in the Philippines who are pond of making scholars to finance with their education. but here in cambodia , I know and I saw a lot of well off families do not heed the inequities and miseries of their neighbors and countrymen.

    Maybe it is time for them to realize, that sometimes they have to share, a little of what they have to make their fellow Cambodian’s life better in the future.

  2. tulapov says :

    Thank you father very much for what you do.

  3. arjay stevens says :

    A warm ‘hello’ to you Al, from Berlin now.
    I read your excellent blog. Hopefully all youngsters in Cambodia
    will read it – and follow that advice to their own success…!

    Best regards to you, and all my friends in Kep and SV,
    with love,

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