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Working Toward Universal, Open & Affordable Internet in Myanmar

Web Foundation · March 27, 2015

We’re delighted to announce that Myanmar has today become the newest member — and first Asia-Pacific nation — to join the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).

A4AI Executive Director Sonia Jorge and Myanmar’s Honorable Deputy Minister of Communication and Information Technology U Thaung Tin met today in Yangon to sign a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which formalises this development and officially marks the start of collaborative work between the Government of Myanmar, the Alliance and local stakeholders to drive down the cost of Internet access in the country. The first multi-stakeholder meeting in Myanmar followed the signing ceremony, and saw over 75 representatives from the government, private sector, and civil society come together to discuss current barriers to affordable Internet access in Myanmar and to form a local coalition that will work to tackle these challenges.

This exciting new development comes as Myanmar is undergoing what could be called a “connectivity revolution.” Following the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in 2011, the Burmese ICT sector has been growing at a breakneck pace. Today, three mobile operators offer voice and mobile Internet services (one state-owned operator and two from the private sector — Qatar’s Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor) and Internet use in the country has grown from 1.2% in 2013 (ITU) to a government-provided estimate of 15% of the population in 2015.

Despite this impressive progress, there is much work to be done to make affordable, open, and universally accessible Internet available in Myanmar. The infrastructure needed to support the huge demand for and growth in supply of Internet services remains underdeveloped, particularly in rural areas of the country, where the majority of Myanmar’s population resides. The capacity of users, regulators, and government officials to understand and  use the Internet effectively needs to be increased, as does access to a steady and reliable power supply. Developing this infrastructure and capacity will require close coordination between government, private sector and civil society actors throughout the country.

Counterintuitively though, Myanmar may have an advantage over nations with more developed markets. Unlike many other countries, Myanmar does not have to undo years of bad policymaking or incoherent regulatory regimes. Rather, the nation’s limited and very recent ICT history offers a unique opportunity to develop a coherent, forward-looking national policy and regulatory framework, based on established best practices, and to get it right first time. This could allow Myanmar to leapfrog other nations that are still working to revise out-of-date policies.

A4AI is excited to get to work, and we are confident that together with our local coalition, we will make great strides in increasing affordable, universal, and free and open access to the Internet in Myanmar.

Want to learn more? Check out our 5 Minute Guide to Affordable Internet in Myanmar infographic and dive more in depth by reading our Myanmar case study. You may also find the full event press release in English and Burmese.

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