Digital Signatures In The Making

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A month after the release of sub-decree 246, the first directive in the kingdom to address digital signatures, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications yesterday said they are already developing the process of applying to become a certificate authority.

Ou Phannarith, director of the Department of ICT Security. KT/Fabien Mouret

A certificate authority or certification authority (CA) is an entity that issues digital certificates.

Sub-decree 246, released earlier this year, seeks to manage the use of digital signatures in a secure and efficient way.

Speaking at a seminar on digital signatures yesterday in Phnom Penh, Ou Phannarith, director of the Department of ICT Security, said their work is now centered on educating people and companies about digital signatures and laying the legal groundwork necessary to enable their usage.

“Our next task is to issue directives that clearly spell out the process of applying for CA licences,” Mr Phannarith said. “Private institutions interested in becoming a CA will need to have the appropriate qualifications and assets, including investment capital, technology infrastructure and human resources.”

He said the licences will be awarded by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

According to Mr Phannarith, digital signatures could prove useful for both public and private institution, with applications when registering a business online, using the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), the Financial Management Information System (FMIS), paying taxes, registering vehicles and real estate, as well as for online banking platforms and e-commerce, among others.

Companies and individuals in Cambodia will be able to use digital signatures for online transactions as early as mid-next year, Mr Phannarith said.

The General Department of ICT 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 sub-decree 246.

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 says.

“All online financial transactions must use a digital signature to comply with the law.”

Chang Moo Chin, CEO of PPCBank, said digital signatures will be particularly important in the banking industry, helping to build trust on online transactions.

“Digital signatures have many uses,” Mr Chang said. “It can really help us simplify our work, as we can use them to certify an operation instead of having to produce physical documents.”

Anthony Galliano, CEO of Cambodian Investment Management, said recently that enabling digital signatures in the kingdom a very important development for the business sector that is fully in line with the government’s vision of a digital economy.

“The digital signature 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.

“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 said 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 added.

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.

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