How Cambodia Built Its Digital Data Exchange

The Cambodia Data Exchange Platform, or CamDX, is decentralizing data exchange to provide online services to private and public organizations, putting Cambodia in line with leading nations such as Japan, Finland and Iceland.
A person walks near the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Phnom Penh, August 2, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
A person walks near the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Phnom Penh, August 2, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Cambodia is on par with Finland, Iceland, and Japan as it adopts Estonia’s X-Road for a unified yet decentralized data exchange to provide online services to the general public.

The country has taken a new approach, from centralization to decentralization, to digitize both the government and broader economy. As ministries take their initiatives, they have to open up their data for data exchange, through Cambodia Data Exchange Platform or CamDX.

“Cambodia started to implement e-government 20 years ago. It's one authority for all [ministries],” Taing Nguonly of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), told the audience at a webinar on Wednesday, organized by Asian Development Bank (ADB).

As each government ministry owns relevant data, he explained CamDX is like a testbed for experimentation.

“We started small and expanded gradually. We encourage each ministry that holds data to be onboard. Then we’ll open to the private sectors, so there will be more innovation. Now it is just a matter of implementing this effectively."

“We’re also experimenting with banks and microfinance. Whenever they get requests, there might be charges per transaction. So, there will be funds to maintain the infrastructure.”

Elaine Tan, Advisor and Head of Statistics and Data Innovation Unit at ADB, said, "It’s really exciting to see what Cambodia is doing. A forward-thinking government.” She added “While there is the cost of collecting, storing, and analyzing data, data could be seen as an asset.”

Discussing “Promoting a Knowledge- and Technology-Driven Southeast Asia”, Elain said at the webinar there is a need to invest in this information infrastructure as countries can use data to improve public services and policy-making.

Cambodia Data Exchange Platform: A unified data exchange platform for public and soon private sectors

Launched in mid-2020, CamDX is like an “information highway for the data flow. When there is data. It serves as an information exchange between ministries”, Nguonly told the audience of nearly 300.

Big Data’s Potential to Aid Post-Pandemic Recovery

Housed in MEF, CamDX follows industry standards, uses digital signatures, encryptions, and follows regulations. “Once successful in the next couple of years, we will propose the law to the national assembly,” said Nguonly, who is also a director of Techo Startup Center.

A recent ADB study says CamDX is Cambodia’s initiative to improve data collection and data sharing. The platform “curates data from different information systems into a unified and decentralized data exchange platform to provide a secure and standardized way of accessing data”.

The MEF uses CamDX to support Online Business Registration (OBR) and Validation Application on Payment Guarantee. OBR is among the first public services that allows the use of CamDigiKey, the e-government's single sign-on service. Business owners can get an estimated approval time of eight days and a 40 percent reduction on the registration fee using OBR.

X-Road is a software solution that allows Estonia ``various public and private sector e-service information systems to link up and function in harmony.” In Japan, major gas company Nichigas also uses Estonia X-road based solutions for information exchange of customers’ data across sub-companies.

The webinar also featured a panel discussion on “Harnessing the Potential of Big Data in Post-Pandemic Southeast Asia”.

In addition to MEF’s Nguonly from Cambodia, other speakers included Emily Pagador of Philippine Statistics Authority; Winit Theanvanichpant of Thailand Development Research Institute; and Ada Wong, Asia Public Affairs Lead, Sanofi. Lively moderated by ADB’s Arndt Husar, the conversation centered around data collection method, data exchange, digital identity, data engineering, analytics and its infrastructure, and the use of big data for policy-making.