Project Outline: “Digitalization and Democratization: Ramifications of the Digital Transformation on the Political Space Interactions in Cambodia”

This summer, I will undertake a research project investigating how Cambodia’s digital transformation from the 2010s to the present has affected the political space. More specifically, I will focus on demographic variables to understand how the relationship varies across age and location.
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Digitalization and Democratization: Ramifications of the Digital Transformation on the Political Space in Cambodia

Supervised by: Professor Thomas Pepinksy, Department of Government, Cornel University.

Research Question

What effects did the digital transformation in Cambodia between 2014 and 2024 have on the political space?

Project Background 

The COVID-19 pandemic saw businesses, schools, and the public sector increase their utilization of the digital space to overcome barriers the pandemic posed. This accelerated the steady increase in the number of internet users in Cambodia. Given the success of these practices, developing countries such as Cambodia, which previously had limited adoption of technology, have embraced digital transformation in their development agendas. However, such promotion of technology usage can have major political consequences. For instance, the Milk Tea Alliance movement and the Arab Spring movement aimed to protest authoritarian practices were enabled and organized largely on social media. Thus, while digitalization efforts may be intended to improve economic development, they also present a means for the populous to engage with the political space in a new way. I aim to investigate the effects of digital transformation on the democratic space in Cambodia, a topic of significant academic and societal importance.

Objectives

  1. Define digital transformation and political space.
  2. Understand the digital transformation of Cambodia from 2014 to 2024.
  3. Investigate how practices of engaging in the political space have changed because of the digital transformation.
  4. Provide insights into how the key variables affect the relationship between digital transformation and interactions in the political space.

Methods

I will conduct this research using a mixed-methods approach. First, I will conduct a literature review to develop a working definition of digital transformation and political space and understand Cambodia's digital transformation from 2014 to 2024. Secondly, I aim to use a combination of key informants and focus group interviews to investigate how practices of engaging in the political space have changed because of the digital transformation. Lastly, I will conduct a statistical analysis of the Asian Barometer Survey to gain insights into how the relationship between digital transformation and interactions in the political space varies by development and demographic indicators.

Timeline

This project will begin during my first summer of the Laidlaw Leadership and Research program (June 2024), and I aim to complete it by early 2025. The literature review will be conducted from early June 2024 to mid-July 2024. The key informant and focus group interviews will be undertaken during July and August 2024 as part of my work in the Center for Khmer Studies Junior Residential Fellows Program. Lastly, the statistical analysis will be conducted at the end of 2024 once the 6th wave of the Asian Barometer Survey for Cambodia is released. The final write-up of the project will be done in early 2025. 

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