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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – 'Motomen' Bring Cambodian Villages into E-Mail World - 2004-02-08

Broadcast: February 9, 2004

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Thirteen villages in northern Cambodia now have e-mail through a project that organizers hope other countries will copy. A group called American Assistance for Cambodia organized the project. It says the idea could serve as a way to help reduce economic differences between rich and poor nations.

A group of schools and a medical center in Ratanakiri Province have been equipped with solar panels. These devices capture energy from the sun to power computers in the schools. Students use electronic mail to write messages to villages nearby. The messages are sent over the Internet, but with the help of what are called “motomen.”

Every day, five people ride motorcycles into the villages to collect outgoing messages and bring incoming mail. The motorcycles are equipped with a computer to store the data. At the end of the day, each “motoman” returns to a computer center in the local capital, Ban Lung. The information is sent from there by satellite to the Internet.

All this work is not just so students can write to nearby villages. Currently, a person in Ratanakiri Province earns about forty dollars a year. Organizers say they hope the project will help farmers and villagers sell their products on the world market over the Internet.

In addition, the computers serve as a learning tool for hundreds of students. Local citizens can use the computers to communicate with the government. And newspapers can send their stories electronically to the villages.

Local health care workers also use the computers. They communicate with doctors in other parts of Cambodia and in the United States. This means they are able to send medical pictures and discuss possible treatments for patients.

A company in the United States developed the technology for the “motoman” project. The company is called First Mile Solutions. Organizers say a team of three people put the project into action in one month. The technology cost about five-hundred dollars per village.

You can learn more about the project on the company Web site. The address is The postal address is First Mile Solutions, four-three-two Columbia Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, zero-two-one-four-one, U-S-A.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.