A Question Of Ethics In the Cambodian IT Industry

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Software piracy remains one of the top concerns for businesses and professionals in the Cambodian IT sector.

The pervasiveness of software piracy in Cambodia and the lack of ethical behaviour in the industry is a theme raised repeatedly by our contributors in the IT sector. These topics continue to encumber the development of the industry and keep on troubling IT experts across the Kingdom.

Software piracy in the Kingdom is almost a way of life. The majority of organisations in Cambodia use stolen software: Adobe Suite, Microsoft Office and Quickbooks readily come to mind. Very few local companies sell legal software and even fewer buy it.

“Usage of non-genuine, including both low-end, pirated and high-end counterfeit software continues to be a major contributing factor to cybersecurity risks,” says Rena Chai, the marketing and operation lead at Microsoft.

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Microsoft’s Chai says their new operating system, O365, gives customers peace of mind with state-of-the-art cybersecurity features.

Chai explains that unlicensed software is more prevalent in consumers and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) due to a lack of IT hygiene and sensitisation. “Microsoft takes the issue of cybercrime risks posed by non-genuine software very seriously, as it can have a devastating impact on the livelihoods of consumers, the productivity of small businesses, and economies of emerging nations.”

The computer giant launched last month in Cambodia Office 365, a cloud-based productivity and collaboration product. According to Chai, O365 will counter cybersecurity risks through an Advanced Threat Protection feature that enables it to detect, protect and respond to unknown and sophisticated menaces.

Another ethical issue afflicting the industry is IT vendors falsely claiming to be registered partners with international IT manufacturing companies. It’s easy enough to slap a partner logo on your website and claim affiliation, but the reality is that most companies in the Kingdom do not actually enjoy the claimed endorsement.

According to Craig Arnoldt, IT consultant at Xlconsulting, it is easy for anyone to discover which IT companies are operating ethically in Cambodia. Dell, Cisco and Microsoft, for example, keep public lists of their registered partners.

“I encourage others to do some due diligence and look into the claims made by these local suppliers. I endeavour to only buy parts from local companies who I believe are behaving ethically,” he says.

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IT consultant Craig Arnoldt says he only buys from local IT suppliers who he believes behave ethically.

Different professionals have different perceptions on these ethical issues. Christophe Dalla Riva, director and founder of Innovation-K, says that “for Europeans, [software piracy and claiming false partnerships] is an important and sensitive issue. But here it is not perceived as a problem, it’s just a different mentality”.

Ashish Fitkariwala, country manager for Thakral Group, has a solution in mind. For him, education is the key. “Cambodia is one of the fastest emerging markets in the region, and needs proper education [when it comes to ethical issues in the IT industry],” he says.

Thakral, an international IT conglomerate, does its part by engaging with business partners and customers from across the region to educate them on the threats of pirated software and other ethical issues that besiege the IT industry. Fitkariwala asserts that his efforts have paid off – he has witnessed a positive change in the last few years, with more customers going for genuine software and looking for automation of processes. “However, there is a long way to go,” he concludes.

Microsoft also perceives education as being key. The firm signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Commerce in August 2016. It will cover joint education campaigns on cybersecurity and malware threats to raise awareness in these areas as well as the dangers from the use of pirated software.