Cambodia and Facebook

Turns out if you measure Cambodia’s Internet penetration rate by Facebook users instead of individual ISP subscriptions, the outlook for this notoriously off-line nation gets a lot better. Check it out. I’m working on a piece on this and the stats are rather interesting.

Cambodia’s Internet penetration rate is dismal. Well, that we know of. Since Cambodia currently has dozens of ISPs and a remarkably dysfunctional governmental monitoring system, no one is quite sure how many Cambodians are online. Internet World as of 2010 indicated roughly 0.5% of Cambodians were online, using figures gleaned from ISP subscription rates. But that’s not the whole story.

According to’s Facebook usage stats, Cambodia comes in at 165 on its list of Facebook using countries as of the week of May 14, 2012, with 497, 700 users and a 3.37% penetration rate. By penetration rate alone, this wedges Cambodia – a relatively small country – in between Pakistan and Equatorial Guinea when it comes to Facebook usage rates by percentage of population. Not great, but…..let’s look at the rest of Southeast Asia.

OK, so Thailand has a  21.14% Facebook usage rate. But Cambodia actually beats tiny Laos when we measure things this way, with a 2.35% Facebook usage rate, and it’s more than comparable to bigger, more populous Vietnam, with 4.50% usage – that’s only 1.13 percentage points away from little Cambodia! (OK, Vietnam restricts Facebook, while Cambodia does not. But that’s still pretty good.)

If we looked at these stats the old way, by simply comparing ISP customers, we’d be getting a very different picture. Measured in this manner, according to Internet World Stats, Cambodia comes in dead last in Southeast Asia with only 78,000 users and 0.5% Internet penetration – instead of a rather respectable third-and-growing in Facebook usage rates.

Much of this can be attributed to the Cambodian government’s inability to curtail access to the networking site, but this is pretty interesting information. Maybe we should be rethinking how we measure Internet penetration rates.

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