A study of mobile use by poor micro entrepreneurs in five cities has revealed surprisingly high levels of smartphone use, indicating fast take-up of mobile applications and services beyond voice when competitive network roll-out gathers momentum in the coming weeks. The results of ethnographic research, interviews and focus groups conducted earlier this year by LIRNEasia, a regional think tank based in Sri Lanka, were released by CEO Helani Galpaya in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon in conjunction with the launch of the Myanmar version of a book summarizing research on mobile conducted in three continents.
Of the 124 people interviewed for the study, 57 already owned their own phone while the others used other people’s phones or payphones. Of the 57 owners, 42 (73 percent) owned phones that could be categorized as smartphones, with touch screens and browsers. As recently as in 2011, only 15 percent of 10,000 poor people surveyed by LIRNEasia in six South and South East Asian countries had these features.
Helani cautioned against direct comparison because the Myanmar respondents were all engaged in some business, unlike those in the 2011 study, and the present study was not based on rigorous random selection. The results were, however, indicative that Myanmar users were likely to leapfrog into the smartphone and mobile apps era, unlike their counterparts in other Asian countries.