Cambodian Open-Source Platform Wins Prestigious Award in Singapore

Somleng, a set of open-source tools, was the only Cambodian company to scoop an award at this year’s AsiaStar 10×10 award in Singapore. Kiripost speaks to its co-founder about his journey as one of Cambodia’s leading coders.
Alibaba Cloud's AsiaStar 10x10 Award
Alibaba Cloud's AsiaStar 10x10 Award

Somleng, a set of open-source tools developed in Cambodia, has scooped this year’s prestigious AsiaStar 10×10 award in Singapore, a Project AsiaForward initiative of Alibaba Cloud.

The open-source project, which is being used in an early-warning system in Cambodia and as part of a cash assistance program in Somalia, has been recognized for its “transparency, scalability, and ease of use, open-source projects are speeding up the region’s pace of technological advancement”.

Somleng is the only awardee from Cambodia of AsiaStar 10×10, which gives recognition to 100 companies, communities, and projects across the region in 10 categories each year. Topping the list of award winners are those from Singapore and Malaysia.

Somleng is run by Chatterbox Solutions, a Phnom Penh-based tech company founded by David Wilkie, CEO and co-founder, and Chhun Samnang, CTO and co-founder.

David Wilkie, CEO and co-founder of Chatterbox Solutions
David Wilkie, CEO and co-founder of Chatterbox Solutions

Upon receiving the prize, Samnang told Kiripost, “We’re so happy to see our works contribute to and help people. At Somleng, we love open-source. All of our works have been released as open-source.”

The Cambodian CTO noted, “At last, we would like to thank the UNICEF Innovation team and our partners who always support and helped us to get where we are now.”

The award was presented early this month during the Apsara Conference in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Neither co-founder managed to travel during this time.

Samnang: Co-Founder, CTO, and Seasoned Software Developer

Chhun Samnang never imagined his career would be this way.

Chhun Samnang, CTO and co-founder of Chatterbox Solutions
Chhun Samnang, CTO and co-founder of Chatterbox Solutions

He specializes in Ruby on Rails, an open-source web application development framework written in the Ruby programming language.

The coder grew up in Phnom Penh. His first humble job was maintaining network systems for a computer store. As a computer science student at Norton University, he built the core banking system.

Decades later, after working full-time for a company like Yoolk, which is known for its Yellow Pages directory of businesses, and other hustle works, Samnang is now a seasoned software developer.

When he left his full-time software engineer position at a Phnom Penh tech company in 2011, he took on a remote job; a career path he paved for himself. It was a well-paid job working remotely from his home for tech companies in the US.

Samnang is also a co-founder and chief technology officer at Chatterbox Solutions. Its cloud communication platform Somleng was funded by UNICEF Innovation Fund.

Before working remotely full-time, Samnang started doing hustle work through Upwork, formerly Elance-oDesk, an online freelancing platform.

Fintech startup CTO

After seven years working as one of Cambodia’s highest paid remote developers, he joined fintech startup Bongloy Payments as its CTO, tasked with building a payment gateway for banking. This is probably Cambodia’s first startup to develop an open API for card issuance and digital payment infrastructure.

Never stop learning: blockchain technology, Web3, and the future ahead

To keep up with the ever-evolving tech industry, Samnang is currently learning how to build projects on blockchain and Web3. He recently enrolled in Encode Club Solidity Bootcamp to become a certified Web3 developer.

Samnang weighed in on the evolving technology. “I am standing in the middle and being pragmatic about [the] technology to see if we could build or leverage it for the things that are harder to achieve in the current ecosystem.”

Samnang sees vast potential to build on top of blockchain, especially in the financial sector, for its native security. He spoke of how fintech startups and developers can take advantage of how blockchain-based smart contracts will transform bank loans in financial services and digital ownership of property in real estate.

At community tech events in Phnom Penh, Samnang usually talks about coding best practices and his remote work, self-discipline and experience. He has also led a developer group to exchange and learn new skills.

When asked what junior developers should do to navigate their career path, Samnang urged,

“Be pragmatic, contribute and learn from the open-source community. One last thing, there is no such thing as the best clean codes, there are only better codes written by good habit programmers with care for others to understand their codes.”

From 2002 to 2006, when he was a computer science student at Norton University in the Cambodian capital, the coder had already started working alongside his lecturer building a core banking system. The banking system was in use at several local banks. He won an outstanding student award, the first rank in computer science.