If you are reading this blog, you probably have access to a computer and have a Facebook account. Cambodians are increasingly connected online, and the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia is proud to be a small part of this technological revolution.
When I began my service as the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, our Facebook page had just over 25,000 fans. Today, a third of 1 million fans– along with more than 34,000 Twitter followers – prove that Cambodians want to connect with us and receive news about the programs we support. Furthermore, it shows that people want to participate in dialogue on important issues in the country. All of you who have commented on our Facebook page, responded on my blog, or have sent me questions for my weekly Ask the Ambassador column, have greatly contributed to the valuable conversations we are having about Cambodia’s future.
Today, the Internet provides unprecedented reach and freedom for people to gather information and express their opinions. Even more important, this technology is interactive, allowing users to select the content they find most useful and relevant in their lives. This ability to access accurate and independent information is the engine of a free and democratic society. Despite low access to the Internet in several parts of the country, the fact that so many Cambodians are taking advantage of online resources when they are available is an indication of their desire to be well-informed, active participants in the country’s growing democracy.
With 1.23 billion users across the world, Facebook has become an increasingly important way of obtaining information not only about friends and family, but also about world events. Along with Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms, social media is having a tremendous impact on the way Cambodians are receiving and sharing information about what is happening in the country and around the globe. The attraction of social media is that it enables a two-way dialogue, something that is not possible with traditional media. This form of communication has continued to grow in significance and now serves as a powerful tool for soliciting ideas and feedback on the issues that matter to Cambodians, particularly with young people.
Social media has provided a large number of Cambodian youth with opportunities to express their views about the country’s development. With one of the youngest populations in Southeast Asia, Cambodia’s hope for the future lies in the minds and the lives of these young people. The number of Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and YouTube videos being created in Cambodia represents the desire for knowledge and innovation by young Cambodians. This intellectual curiosity is a great equalizer when it comes to competing for opportunities in the country, throughout the ASEAN region, and across the world. Therefore, along with face-to-face outreach, the U.S. Embassy works hard to connect with youth via social media, posting content that appeals to young Cambodians and making an effort to respond to their questions and comments.
When the U.S. Embassy promotes its social media platforms, it is not to compete with other individuals or organizations to see who can get the most fans. Whether you choose to follow your favorite singer, news source, or a public official; we support a free and democratic society in Cambodia which allows its people to access and select content from the Internet and other media of their choosing. The reason why we seek your support is because every time that you like and share our Facebook posts or retweet our Twitter content, you help us reach more users. This gives more Cambodians access to information about education, exchanges, President Obama’s Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI), English language learning, and a host of other programs. So while 333,333 is remarkable (and a very lucky number), this is only the beginning.
Our next goal is to reach 500,000 Facebook fans. Would you like to help us achieve this next milestone? We will do our part by making sure our Facebook page is a source of meaningful, noteworthy and helpful information, and you can assist us by letting all of your friends know that we invite them to join our online family. With our combined efforts, I am confident that we will make it to 500,000 Facebook fans and beyond.
Thanks for your continued support…we look forward to even more in 2015!