Today, Myanmar has similar mobile phone usage rates to North Korea, Eritrea and Cuba – less than 10 percent of the population. At the same time, technology restrictions in the country are easing. Three mobile operators are racing to roll out services, which will rapidly bring the 60 million people who live in Myanmar into a digital reality, practically overnight.
On August 6, 2014, FHI 360 convened a workshop in Yangon to explore the role of information and communications technology and development in Myanmar, attended by leading technologists and development experts from Myanmar and across the Asia Pacific region. The workshop centered on three questions that address technology’s impact on government, civil society, business and most importantly, people’s lives:
- What are the social and cultural impacts when a country goes online virtually overnight?
- What will the people of Myanmar find on the Internet of today? Or tomorrow?
- Who will benefit when all of the citizens of Myanmar have a digital voice?
While attendees touched on many points throughout the discussion, and did not always agree on the answers to our questions, we did find general consensus that by 2018, Myanmar will have a very different technology landscape.