Weather on the web: How Cambodians are predicting the days ahead
Cambodians use mobile devices to interact with the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology and get web-based weather updates © UNDP Cambodia
The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MoWRAM) are an important player in most Cambodian’s everyday lives. Knowing when it might rain, flood, or thunder is integral to a society which functions around farms, open-air restaurants, and temple tourism. MoWRAM provides this information via daily, 3- and 10- day forecasts on weather conditions, including warnings on upcoming severe weather events. But is there any evidence to show whether and when Cambodians are accessing this information?
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-supported ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’ project, funded by the GEF-Least Developed Countries Fund, recently commissioned an analysis on how Cambodians are engaging with MoWRAM on the web.
Between its inception at the end of 2016 and the end of 2019, the MoWRAM website was visited almost 10 million times, with an average of 17,000 visits per day. By far, mobile devices are the most used mode of accessing the information.
As could be expected, the study also demonstrated that weather information is usually sourced early in the morning and then again in the evening, with usage decreasing in during working hours.
In Cambodia, it is estimated that there is one Facebook account for every two people, with a total of almost 9 million active accounts. Given this information, it is not surprising that MoWRAM’s Facebook page, launched in January 2016, has over 1 million followers. Posts on the page include readings from water stations, extreme weather warnings, updates of events that MoWRAM is part of, and regular newsletters.
Ms. Tep Phollarath, one of Cambodia’s senior meteorologists, updating the website with the latest forecast © Ratha Soy/UNDP Cambodia
Mr. Ly Hon, one of MoWRAM’s Systems Support team, describes a general increased interest in the field of meteorology in the country which may be driving the social media engagement. “People were not interested in climate change years ago - their interest has maybe started in the last 2 to 3 years. People in the countryside need to know this information, it is very important.”
The analysis demonstrated the seasonality of perceived importance of weather information. Since its inception, a trend has been regularly observed that visits to the MoWRAM webpage, as well as interactions with Facebook posts, are much higher during monsoon season than in the dry season. This may be due to a need to know about the increased variability of weather, as well as potential impending events such as flooding during this time.
In 2019 and 2020, there has been an increase in engagement with MoWRAM’s Facebook page. This may be due to an increasing public awareness of its existence, plus further need for the information disseminated by the page. Posts are regularly shared, therefore providing an informal way for people to disseminate important information to their circle of friends and family.
Using web-based approaches is opportunistic for Cambodians. Not only does a website provide more up-to-date information and warnings than traditional methods such as a newspaper, it also provides Cambodians an opportunity for two-way interaction with MoWRAM and with each other. “People want to know, and they ask questions on the MoWRAM [Facebook] page so I try to explain it to them. Some questions I answer by myself, if not I ask someone from the department to answer the question,” states Mr. Hon.
The most common theme of post comments was appreciation to MoWRAM for the information – a source of feedback that might have otherwise not been available. This was followed by comments about rain, demonstrating one of the main topics that Cambodians are looking to MoWRAM for.
Written by Kelsea Clingeleffer, Results Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Consultant. For more information, please contact Muhibuddin Usamah (Project Manager) at email@example.com
See the ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’ Twitter timeline here.