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TRANSCRIPT

NAT

From the air, it’s easy to see why Ratanakiri has a reputation for being one of the world’s last remote frontiers.

This distant province in northeastern Cambodia is two days’ drive from the capital, Phnom Penh, on bumpy dirt tracks.

NAT

This day we’re taking a commercial flight with Bernie Krisher, an American who knows this region well, having covered the Vietnam War for Newsweek magazine in the 19-60’s. That conflict spilled over into this very part of Cambodia.

Krisher now runs a number of charities to assist the country he HAS COME TO love, and to use technology to help bring Cambodia into the 21st Century.

NAT
On the ground in Ratanakiri, life proceeds at a gentle pace.

First the cows are chased off the landing strip– then the plane comes in to land.

NAT OF PLANE

CROSS FADE TO NAT OF WATERFALL

It’s a region filled with natural beauty.

Waterfalls-

NAT OF LAKE

and lakes, destinations that have not been discovered by many tourists.

And even the name of the province is wrapped in romance: Ratanakiri means mountain of jewels in many Asian languages, a reference to the area’s gem mining industry.

But for all the beauty, the comforts of modern life are hard to find. There are no paved roads in this province. Electricity isn’t available outside the main town, Ban Lung. And running water is a luxury.

Like the rest of Cambodia, Ratanakiri faces a variety of other problems: there are few schools or hospitals and its people are still desperately poor.

But change is coming, slowly.

THANKS, IN NO SMALL PART, TO BERNIE KRISHER.

Tape 2/ 3:11:44

NAT: Hello children, how are you?

Krisher is a popular figure here. Among other things, he’s helped set up hundreds of schools, giving Cambodian kids basic education, even access to computers.

NAT: TAPE 2/3:12:00 “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Krisher has found a number of sponsors around the world to help support the schools, and he’s also looking toward technology:

In the absence of electricity, human muscle helps generate power for the computers – as do solar panels.

What they don’t have is a direct link to the Internet. No phone lines, no satellite dishes.

NAT

Enter the Motoman.

These men and their metallic machines are the modern-day equivalent of the postman in Ratanakiri.

On roads that can test even the toughest four-wheel drive vehicles,

NAT

the Motoman has to weave a careful path.

On his bike, precious cargo – of stored e-mail, that has been DOWNloaded wirelessly to a box on the bike. The exchange takes just a few seconds.

The wireless technology was developed by a Boston-based company, First Mile Solutions, on the WiFi technology that’s become common-place in offices and homes in the developed world.

The bike rides up to the door of a remote school, and in a matter of seconds, email is downloaded from the school’s computer to this chip inside the box on the motorbike.

Once the Motoman returns to the hub, the e-mail is UPloaded and sent by satellite to the Internet.

KRISHER SOT Tape 4/04:08:20-ish The Internet and e-mail opens up many opportunities. It’s like building a highway. The highway permits transportation, transportation increases commerce, and so on.

RAM SOT 4:18:47 Are your ideas audacious? Some people could say for instance that the money you’re spending could be better used for basic necessities, like food, water, etc.?

SOT 4:08:10 Well, it can be and it should be and I always say, why not do both? (EDIT) 8:45-ISH I don’t like to give fish, I want to teach them how to fish. So my project is teaching people and not giving them things.

DIP TO BLACK

UP ON HOSPITAL

At Ratanakiri’s only hospital, the patients line up for urgent attention. They’ve heard there are visiting doctors this day from the capital, Phnom Penh.

RAM STANDUP Tape 1/1:46:48 For many of these people, this is the only access they’ll have to health care. While there may be smaller clinics for minimal first aid, for anything serious, the people of Ratanakiri have to come to this hospital.

One of the most serious cases — 64-year-old Ting Do.

Doctors examine Ting Do and come to the conclusion that he’s got a testicular tumor. They believe he needs prompt attention, but they’d like to get a second opinion.

In that, they’re luckier than many similar hospitals in developing countries. .

NAT

Doctors at the Ratanakiri Referral Hospital take photographs of their patients, gather their vital signs and then send them, via the Internet, to the best medical minds – on the other side of the world, in Boston.

There, doctors with the Massachusetts General Hospital and a voluntary practice called Telepartners look at the data and e-mail back their own diagnosis.

Hours later, the conclusion in Ting Do’s case: he needs to be checked out at a larger hospital. He’ll take a flight out to Phnom Penh as soon as possible.

Like his other projects, Krisher is proud of the partnerships he’s been able to forge across the oceans. But he acknowledges it’s been a difficult fight in a difficult land still recovering from decades of war and totalitarian rule.

RAM SOT TAPE 4/4:17:27 What do you do when you run into problems?

04:33 Well, I’ve learned to succeed. CUTAWAY? OR B-ROLL

EDIT 4:17:32 I cajole, I persuade. I charm people. I yell and shout.

RAM SOT Some people might say your style is dictatorial.

4:06:40-ish We don’t have committees, we don’t. I pretty much decide everything, but I have been successful in accomplishing things and I haven’t hurt anybody in the process. So why not continue this way?

NAT

They’ve continued this way for generations in Kan Cheung village. The only real livelihood here has been farming.

Till now.

Krisher saw the traditional shawls made here and decided they could find an outlet, on the World Wide Web.

Products made here are featured on a site, village leap-dot-com. And orders have come in from every corner of the globe.

Once dirt poor Kan Cheung is reaping the benefits of e-commerce.

I ask Krisher what he sees in the future of Cambodia.

04:11:00-ish It’s a remarkably talented and wonderful society. EDIT This new generation is wonderful and if you give them this opportunity to learn, especially computers and access to the world, the Internet, Google, they’re going to pick up a lot.

One day, what the rest of the world calls “development” will come to Ratanakiri. But Bernie Krisher is just happy knowing these people have already leapfrogged to the information age; with the help of some big thinking and some high-tech tools.

Ram Ramgopal, for Global Challenges, Ratanakiri, Cambodia

Ram Ramgopal, CNN, Ratanakiri, Cambodia