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Digital signatures to speed up transition to online economy

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
An office worker using a computer. Experts say the introduction of digital signatures will facilitate many online operations. Reuters

Digital signatures will soon be a standard element of doing business in the kingdom, with the government recently releasing a sub-decree on this handy online tool aimed at facilitating financial transactions and other operations commonly carried on the internet.

Sub-decree 246, consisting of nine chapters and 41 articles, seeks to manage the use of digital signatures in a secure and efficient way.

The General Department of ICT (GDICT) at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications will be the body in charge of managing, issuing and monitoring certificates for digital signatures in the kingdom, according to the sub-decree.

The body will create and curate a list of digital certificates in Cambodia containing key information about the holder of each signature.

“All electronic mail containing a certified digital signature will be as valid as a letter,” the sub-decree reads.

“All online financial transactions must use a digital signature to comply with the law.” Digital signatures issued by foreign institutions will have to get approval from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, unless there is an international agreement with the issuing country in place.

Kan Channmeta, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, told Khmer Times that the digital signature scheme will make online transactions safer.

“The digital signature sub-decree is an important tool to increase security and build trust when conducting online operations,” he said. “It will encourage the expansion of the business sector and even help the government increase tax revenue.”

Mr Channmeta added that the ministry will hold a workshop this month to spread information about digital signatures, which will be aimed particularly at telecom operators, internet service providers, banks, online businesses and government agencies.

Song Saran, the president of Amru Rice, one of the largest rice millers and exporters in the country, said digital signatures can speed up the payment process in his sector.

He said that now transactions are often delayed because parties have to meet at a specific location to sign documents.

“I am very happy with this new online tool. I think it will improve how we do business in Cambodia, allowing us to do all the bureaucratic work faster,” Mr Saran said.

Anthony Galliano, the CEO of Cambodian Investment Management, said the new move is a very important development for the business sector and it is in line with the government’s ambition to implement e-commerce laws.

“The sub-decree takes the step of elevating the kingdom from the conventional business process model of physical signatures to legal acceptance of digital signatures, a key component of the digitalisation of workflows,” he said.

“The main benefits of digital signatures are speed by eliminating the need of the post and couriers; much less cost as documents are digitally sent; security as digital signatures reduce the risk of documents being intercepted, read, destroyed, or altered while in transit; and authenticity as digital signatures can stand up in court just as well as any other signed paper document.”

Mr Galliano added that digital signatures offer the highest and most verifiable standard for identifying an individual. Most countries recognise and accept digital signatures as legally binding documents, he said.

According to the sub-decree, all digital signatures in the kingdom must be approved by the Ministry of Posts. Using a digital signature without the approval of the ministry is against the law. Individuals can be fined in the range of $1,250-$3,750, while companies can be forced to pay up to $37,500.

A digital signature certificate lasts for 10 years, renewable upon expiration.

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