The Globe as you know it is changing.
Coming June 2019

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  • Member engagement with our journalists

To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Digital Khmer script: Cracking the code

By: Don Weinland - Posted on: October 11, 2012 | Cambodia

The quest to keep the Khmer script alive in a digital world

By Don Weinland

A decade ago, the Khmer script was facing one of its biggest modern identity crises. The fluid, often flame-like writing system found itself in a losing position between a rapidly expanding digital world and nearly 1,400 years of history.

Photo: Nicolas Axelrod/SEA Globe. Trail blazer: Javier Solá, founder of KhmerOS, which develops computer tools in Khmer to promote the economic development of Cambodia
Photo: Nicolas Axelrod/SEA Globe.
Trail blazer: Javier Solá, founder of KhmerOS, which develops computer tools in Khmer to promote the economic development of Cambodia

A lack of funding and technical skills had put Cambodia far behind its neighbours in the computer sciences, leading to pessimism about the digital transition of its language. While strong interests existed in a pixilated Khmer, disorganisation and stubbornness on the part of independent programmers had seen the development of more than 20 different fonts by 2002, none of which were mutually intelligible on computers.

The language looked doomed to fall behind the curve. In contrast with the success of Thai and Vietnamese in the digital age, the Roman alphabet took on an important role for Cambodians in online communications.

Scroll through a young Cambodian’s Facebook page today and one will find the local alphabet in recent posts, input below photos or in status updates. Some have even registered their account names in their native language, although the number is small. In a country where per capita gross domestic product has yet to break the $1,000 mark, and more than 70% of the country still engages in farming, it’s no surprise that demand for local digital content has lagged. Yet experts, many of those who helped put Khmer onto desktop monitors, said after years of struggling to get a foothold, the script is poised to fill new roles for its more than 15 million users worldwide.

Khmer first appeared on computer screens during the People’s Republic of Kampuchea – there were few computers at the time, however. The Vietnamese developed the programme, Khmer In Office, or KIO, in the 1980s, running on DOS. It was quickly displaced by the entrance of the Windows operating system into Cambodia, according to Norbert Klein, a programmer on the scene during the country’s transition to a more market-based economy in the early 1990s.

“With Windows, suddenly it was possible to start developing fonts,” he said. “Cambodians abroad started to create systems, but none of them were in communication with each other.” A glut of digital scripts was the result – Klein counted 23 – with each programmer pushing for the use of his or her version. It was at this point, at the turn of the millennium, that the direction of the digital language looked uncertain.

Enter Unicode: the world’s most extensive standard for language encoding. Individual fonts must be found and downloaded to materialise meaningfully on a monitor, explains Javier Solá, founder of KhmerOS, an organisation aimed at pushing Cambodia further into the digital age. Unicode, on the other hand, assigns a unique value to each character of the more than 100 languages encoded with it, making it much more difficult for the digital representation to fall into disuse or disappear. In a way, Solá says, the system immortalises a language.

“Before it depended on the font you had on your computer,” he said. “[With Unicode], it’ll be readable 100 years from now. You won’t need to go find a font.” Kambuja Soriya, a Buddhist literary journal printed between 1926 and 2005, has recently been digitalised, Solá added, preserving a valuable cultural work that would otherwise be subject to slow deterioration on a library shelf.

With the coding hurdle cleared, digital Khmer faced the same challenge that stands in front of it today: a vacuum of content, applications, and perhaps most prominently, devices on which to use the language.

Computing in Cambodia is still very much for those who can speak English, said Stephen Gibberd, a Phnom Penh-based internet technologies consultant. To this day, few devices – such as mobile phones or tablets – support the language. Technology companies that have attempted to capture this market have ended up with products far too complicated for everyday use.

“You need a manual to send a text in Khmer. You have ten buttons and 90 something characters. You end up hitting one button an average of five times,” Gibberd said of the handsets marketed by Metfone and Hello, two of Cambodia’s biggest mobile service providers.

China’s Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp, two of the world’s biggest technology companies, have a keen interest in developing phones that would make texting in Khmer easier, Gibberd said. A locally developed tablet using Google’s Android operating system may also be on the market soon, he said.

This year, more than half of the country’s bandwidth ran through mobile connections, demonstrating Cambodia’s newfound technological savviness. That said, connections on smart phones or tablets are still far cheaper than fibre connections. The latest internet-penetration figure stands at a mere 4% in a country with less than 15 million people. Wariness over investing in Khmer-language digital content or devices for these users is not unfounded.

Photo: Nicolas Axelrod/SEA Globe. Internet society: Norbert Klein
Photo: Nicolas Axelrod/SEA Globe.
Internet society: Norbert Klein

Compared to the surrounding countries, reading culture is weak in the Kingdom, Klein said. A surge in the availability of Khmer content will not necessarily lead to new interest here.

One of Khmer’s biggest digital achievements in the past decade has been made in the classroom, where the government has mandated the teaching of so-called open source systems, Klein said. Microsoft’s reluctance to create a version of Windows in the language pushed Cambodia’s Ministry of Education toward the free software development platform in 2009. Now 40,000 instructors across the country teach open source software instead of Windows.

As intellectual property laws come closer to being imposed in the country, the cost of software has become another important factor.

“These are people who are calculating cost and legality well into the future,” Klein said, adding that only a few years ago the cost of purchasing Windows and Office licenses for all Cambodian government and school computers would have caused the system to collapse.

The vast majority of computers in Cambodia still use Windows. Gibberd said this is the key to the future of computing in the country. If Cambodia can move toward more open-source programming, the language – or at least its online version – should have a robust future.



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