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Interview & Confluences : Sébastien Ung, "Cambodia encourages a sense of responsibility"

Sébastien Ung, representative of ADD (Asia Data Destruction), has been living in Cambodia for twenty years now. Today, Sébastien is a specialist in the preservation of computer data, and shares his views on his professional life in the Kingdom.

Sébastien Ung, ADD (Asia Data Destruction) representative in Cambodia
Sébastien Ung, ADD (Asia Data Destruction) representative in Cambodia
 
 

Sébastien in a few words

All right, so I’m Sébastien, I’m French-Cambodian, my father is Cambodian and my mother is French. I’m 44 years old, I trained as a salesman and I came to Cambodia quite a few years ago.

How did you come to Cambodia?

Initially, it was to discover my second country and to carry out research with my father into family members we might have found after the war. One thing led to another and I started to discover the country, I got a job opportunity and since then I didn’t want to come back to France.

What was your first feeling?

Well, I’ve always loved Asian culture. I’m a martial arts fan, so I’ve always been interested, but more in China. Cambodia, much less, I didn’t know at all. Unfortunately, my father didn’t teach us Cambodian language or culture, simply because he lost all his family during the Khmer Rouge era.

So he really wanted to cut all ties at that point, which is perfectly understandable. And so, in fact, with this opportunity to come to Cambodia, I was really happy, because I didn’t know anything.

I arrived at Phnom Penh airport, got off the plane and found myself in a whole new world. Something completely different.

What was your first job in Cambodia?

I worked in the hotel business. I trained as a salesman, but in fact I’ve been in the hotel business for 20 years now. I’ve worked in several establishments in Cambodia. I ran the Pavillon d’Orient for ten years and, after that, I wanted to discover something new.

Then Covid came along… I had the opportunity to work in the reconditioning of industrial batteries. Of course, it wasn’t easy because we were importing a new technology at the time.

“But I think it was something that really motivated me, to discover another job, a different sector and above all to be able to contribute to preserving the environment and public health in Cambodia.”

So I worked there for four years. Then I had the opportunity to work with a French organisation on sustainable development projects.

At the same time, I had the opportunity to join ADD, Asia Data Destruction, which helps companies to manage their IT hardware and equipment, to protect their data by destroying it and reconditioning the hardware they no longer use to resell it on the secondary market or to industries or companies in need that don’t have the resources, such as NGOs, schools, etc. So the purpose of our company is to help businesses manage their IT hardware and equipment, to protect their data by destroying it and reconditioning the hardware they no longer use to resell it on the secondary market or to industries or companies in need who don’t have the resources. So the whole point of our company is to encourage companies to move towards a circular economy. Our vision is what we call the three Rs in French, Réduction, Réutilisation et Recyclage.

How do you go about this?

We don’t offer data recovery, but data destruction, which is not the same thing. When companies have IT equipment such as laptops, desktops, servers or even printers, we offer them a data destruction service when their equipment reaches the end of its life or when they need to update their system. Companies are now legally obliged to have data destruction solutions. We provide this data destruction service so that hacking is no longer an option.

What technique do you use?

The average person who doesn’t know much about computers will think that formatting is all they need to do and that there is no danger of piracy. Unfortunately, there is now software that can recover data that has been erased and is still written to the hard disk.

So we are proposing a recycling system called “By Software”, software that rewrites data on the hard disk. So, it’s as if you had marked A, B, C, D on your hard drive and our software will write random numbers 1, 0, 0, 0, over several phases.

This makes it impossible to read the original data.

Is this a successful business?

It works very well with companies that know the laws and rules on data protection. International companies generally know that they have to protect their customers’ data and when they get rid of their equipment, they don’t leave or even just format their hard disk because you never know where it’s going to end up.

Then, in Cambodia, there’s an informal system that’s highly developed and doesn’t protect anything at all. So that’s what we’re trying to communicate and inform people about.

We are inspired by a very personal method called IPEC. We inform, suggest, encourage and contribute. We find out about today’s methods, about existing laws or laws that are going to be introduced very soon. We then inform our customers and offer them solutions tailored to their needs.

“So it’s important to raise awareness not only about protecting their customers, but also the environment and public health, about how to recycle their electronic equipment.”

Finally, when customers are convinced and we can work together, we contribute to a better environment, better protection of rights and data privatisation and, of course, to public health.

Our software avoids the need to recycle hard disks. The companies that contact us can then recover their hard drive and reuse it. Then there are companies that don’t want it to be reused, so they ask us to physically destroy the hard drive.

For the moment, we’re using a method that involves drilling holes in them. After that, for customers who don’t have 100% confidence in a drilling method, we offer destruction using software and then a drill. I think it’s very important nowadays to be careful with this data, because everyone entrusts this data to any company.

When you open a bank account, you are giving out private information. When you open a Facebook account, it’s the same thing. When you pay with your mobile phone, you’re obviously giving out data.

A lot of people think that everything’s fine, that there are no problems, but when you’re hacked or someone uses your identity, that’s when you realise that it’s very important to be careful about how we use software and applications… Secondly, I think it’s important nowadays to consume differently, not to buy a mobile phone every year just because it’s ‘trendy’.

''Responsible consumption is very important. Because you have components that are highly toxic and dangerous to health and the environment.''

It would be good if people realised that the planet is now suffering enormously and that it’s up to us to be more responsible in helping to preserve it.

What do you do outside work?

Well, a bit of sport. I like martial arts, football and so on. So I do a bit of gym and so on. I look after my little family. And then from time to time I like to go to a nice restaurant with friends and watch football or rugby matches.

What do you like most and least about Cambodia?

The nicest thing is the feeling of freedom, of being empowered. I left France because I didn’t necessarily want to be assisted or formatted. My philosophy is to take responsibility, it’s up to us to do things for ourselves. I think that’s positive, but there’s a negative side, because it’s not easy every day. There’s no one there to help you. The Cambodian system gives you a lot of freedom and it’s up to you to manage.

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