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Laos eyes potential as regional internet link

Laos could serve as an internet cable connector within the region in the future thanks to its geographic location, an internet policy maker has said.
“It is possible that Laos could be a regional internet land link,” Director General of the Lao Internet Centre, Mr Keovisouk Solaphom said recently.
Mr Keovisouk, who is in charge of internet management in Laos, said the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications was aware of Laos’ potential in this regard.
“We have a policy in place to promote Laos as an internet land link,” he said, adding that the details of this policy are still being studied so he was unable to provide more information.
Laos is centrally located in the Mekong region and has no sea access. The country shares borders with China, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.
The government is considering connecting these countries through internet cables so that internet services in the region are secure, stable and cheaper. This is possible for Laos due to its geographic location.
Observers say Laos can benefit from its location but it will take a long time for the country to become a regional internet land link without an attractive investment promotion policy.
“At the end of the day, internet cables would be laid via Laos. It is just a matter of time,” Mr Keovisouk said.
He suggested that only the right kind of government intervention would help Laos to fulfil this ambition more quickly.
Other officials at the telecommunications ministry say one of the benefits of Laos being a central service provider would be access to cheaper internet services. This is due to the fact that countries in the region could share the costs of internet infrastructure development.
Many people in Laos say the cost of internet services are higher compared to neighbouring countries, particularly Thailand. They have urged the government to make this service cost-effective and make the online economy competitive.
In Laos, the internet is used not just as a means of communication, but also as a trading platform. On social media networking sites such as Facebook people do live video trading, selling a variety of goods including traditional Lao skirts.
If use of the internet is cheaper, people would make more use of this platform for business purposes.
Internet regulators say there are several reasons why use of the internet costs more in Laos.
One of these is that there is little local content available, and when people download content from other countries, it uses more data and costs more than downloading domestic content.
If internet users download domestic content, they can save data and so spend less money, they observe.

By Ekaphone Phouthonesy
(Latest Update January 19, 2019)

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