Is Online Research feasible in Cambodia?

If you had asked me this question 3 years ago, my answer would have been no and no. There were a few barriers including slow internet speeds (although not quite true), unfamiliarity among people with self-administered questionnaires (for online survey) or limited interaction (for qualitative research) because the respondents were conscious about responding when on their phone camera etc.

I decided to invest on building an online panel in Cambodia in February 2020 just before the pandemic because I believed it was time to move to online research to keep up with the latest trend. Frankly I didn’t even know what an online panel was and how to run it. I had to do a lot of research to be on top of it since then.

We had the platform ready in June 2020. Surprisingly, since the launch, we have had a great success with high participation rate of the target audiences. We have now over 10k of panelists with registrations growing every day!

Due to COVID-19, we conducted many FGDs and IDIs via Zoom. Earlier, I thought it would be difficult to manage the online FGDs and I was a bit hesitant to recommend this method to clients. But I was wrong! Our groups went so smoothly, though we had to follow some protocols and checklists to ensure that issues with internet connections and engagement were minimized. Our clients were impressed with our arrangements and insights we could gather from the online groups. The most recent groups we did were with mothers in both Phnom Penh and other key cities of Cambodia, and all groups went off very well.

We also now have the experience with Online Communities with platforms such as QualBoard and FocusVision.

So, if you ask me now, my answer will be Yes! It is possible!! Online research is the method that I want to recommend for research projects in Cambodia.

With online research, we can save a lot of cost of travel and accommodation for researchers. The respondents also don’t need to come over to the venue, which is quite convenience for them so they are less likely to refuse our invitation for participation. In addition, it is safe for both researchers and respondents during COVID-19 because they don’t have to meet face to face.

Sharing with you some numbers about internet usage in Cambodia:

  • Total Population: 16.36 Million (Urbanization: 24%)
  • Mobile Subscriptions: 25.04 Million (vs. Population: 153%)
  • Internet Users: 12.50 Million (Penetration: 76%)
  • Active Social Media Users: 8.40 Million (Penetration: 51%)
  • Mobile Social Media Users: 8.10 Million (Penetration: 49%)

 * Source: Digital 2019 Cambodia (January 2019)

By Phoung Vuthy, Managing Director of MRTS Consulting Ltd.

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