Early Sunday morning, a dozen young Cambodians and expatriates gathered in a ground floor meeting space off of Wat Bottum Park. After a round of introductions and snacks, laptops were opened and participants began the task of translating the 9752-word Open Data Handbook from English to Khmer.

What is the Open Data Handbook, you ask? It is a widely accessible resource that answers:

  1. what is open data?
  2. why open data?
  3. how does one go about opening data?
  4. what can one do with data once it has been opened?

The Handbook was first written in English by members of the Open Knowledge Foundation. Since 2010, volunteers have organized to translate it into eighteen other languages.

The event arose from discussions between myself, Pinkie Chan of Open Development Cambodia, and Vantharith Oum of the local Open Knowledge chapter. Each of us sought an engaging way to build a local community around the concept of ‘open data.’

University student Taing Bun Hong, volunteering on Sunday had this to say: ”I’m excited to see the open data movement in Cambodia. I think the open data movement, including this event, and Wikipedia are a great source of knowledge for Cambodia.” His sentiment was echoed by others in attendance, each driven by the belief that the translated Handbook will make all Cambodians more knowledgeable and passionate about building an open society.

None of the participants–NGO workers, university students, and journalists among them–claimed an expertise in the subject matter. This resulted in a collaborative atmosphere, where questions such as ‘what is a “wholesale data plaform” or a “sui generis database right”?’ and ‘can we translate technical terms into Khmer and should we?’ were hashed out.

After three hours, the group more than doubled the number of words translated into Khmer to over 3000. With continued remote work and another upcoming translate-a-thon, we hope a full draft translation can completed in the coming weeks. Then begins the process of review and polishing, where we will seek the support of local university professors versed in law, technology, and media.

Could not make it, but still want to help out? Just go to to make an account. Then click on and request to join the team. We hope you will!

Special thanks to Ramana Sorn of Sithi Hub for providing the space (and air conditioning) and be sure to check out the great video made by Gregory Bem, a library intern at Open Development Cambodia, complete with group shots and a few interviews: