Radhika Wijesekera


As election campaigning heats up in Myanmar with D day less than one month away, Facebook is being used as a key tool in getting information across to the public. According to the news item published in the Frontier Myanmar, a member of a key political party in Myanmar claims that this is a useful medium by which to keep the public updated. The length and breadth of mobile usage, and particularly, the outreach of Facebook in the country, has been quoted from the nationwide baseline telecommunications survey carried out by LIRNEasia in February and March this year; the results of which were disseminated in July. The full article can be accessed here
It certainly is nice to see social media being put to good use. Since 2009, the US Government Scientists (USGS) have teamed up with social media giant Twitter in receiving data on earthquakes. The USGS has about 2000 sensors planted in and outside the US listening to tiny movements in the earth’s crust. The responses vary. Sensors pick up movements and report back to the federal agency, but some are too small to cause panic.
The Eleven News recently carried an article on propaganda being spread on Facebook. LIRNEasia disseminated the findings of a nationwide ICT baseline survey in July this year, and the numbers related to users of the Internet, and users of Facebook which we highlighted at the dissemination has been quoted in this news item. The original Myanmar version of the article can be accessed here. The translated English version is available here.
We have isolated 3 stories which came out of our Myanmar teleuse baseline survey findings which we thought should be placed in the spotlight in the form of press releases. And they are as follows; Fewer women own phones compared to men.  But due to shared use, the usage of phones is not very different between men and women.  99% of Ward/Village Leaders carry Mobile Phones. Only 89.
While announcing lowered call and data rates, CEO of Telenor Myanmar, Petter Furberg goes on to say that almost half of all mobile subscriptions is Telenor. 12 of the 14 states and regions of Myanmar are now covered by Telenor, 55% of whose subscriber base are data users. He further claims that while expanding coverage in the country, the strength and quality of signal is being improved in areas that are already being served. This is definitely a welcome sign, in a country where 70% of mobile phone users are on smart phones. The full news item can be found here.
LIRNEasia participated at the 2nd meeting of the A4AI Myanmar Coalition meeting yesterday at the MICT Park in Yangon. Four priority areas were identified as being important for debate right now; 1. A Universal Access Fund 2. Infrastructure development and sharing 3. Data and Research 4.
According to Philip Graves, a market research consultant in UK, conducting focus group discussions and surveys in order to learn about people’s habits, wants and needs are misleading and dysfunctional. He cites several examples, including cases regarding Coca Cola, Mc Donalds, KFC and Google Search. He believes that asking people questions and noting down answers is not the best way to go about this, but rather, through observation and the big data gathered through the observation of peoples’ habits. The full text of item can be found here
According to the Deputy Minister of Telecommunications in Myanmar, U Thaung Tin, the Government is working on a new spectrum allocation policy. An important aspect of a county’s broadcasting sector, streamlining the nation’s spectrum allocation is bound to be well received by anyone who is engaged in broadcasting. The Ministry is hoping to make the relevant policy document available “soon”. Myanmar currently has three mobile operators; Telenor, Ooredoo and MPT while they will soon have a forth – YTP. Myanmar shows a high demand for mobile services.
Ooredoo Myanmar has received two international awards for its MayMay app, recognizing their innovative approach to helping ensure that vital maternal, child health and wellness information is available to women, particularly during and after pregnancy. The app bridges the mobile and health sectors to help ensure that a wealth of useful information is readily available to women across the country both during and after pregnancy. Says Ross Cormack, CEO of Ooredoo Myanmar “MayMay’ is a great example of how our team develops innovative, home-grown solutions that speak to real issues affecting people in Myanmar today.” Today ‘MayMay’ has more than 11,000 users, emphasizing the growing demand for the service. It is free and can be accessed on iOS and Android.
Although Myanmar’s Parliament had approved the imposition of a 5% commercial telecom tax on mobile phone top ups last year, the Government hadn’t previously enforced it due to the rapid sector expansion that occurred in the last 12 months. According to a press release from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), this exemption is to come to an end with the adoption of the Amendment to the Commercial Tax law last month, and the tax will be collected from the 1st of June 2015. One wonders how this will affect mobile usage in the country. According to the findings of LIRNEasia’s baseline survey on mobile usage, as many as 74% of those who access the internet do so using their mobile phones. Will the rise in cost be significant enough to reduce the amount of data going up and down?
Ooredoo Myanmar has signed a deal with a Singaporean company for the construction and lease of 500 new mobile towers. Thus, at the end of 18 months, the telecom giant should see their tower strength surpassing the 2000 mark. At the moment, the coverage provided by the private operators Ooredoo and Telenor outside of the main cities are scanty at best. One wonders where these 500 new towers will be located. GSM estimates that Myanmar needs a minimum of 17,000 towers in order to provide 70% mobile coverage in the country.
Every day is not baby’s day at the office, but at LIRNEasia, it certainly can be. The formal commissioning of the “Multipurpose Room” occurred yesterday, amid elevated decibels of squeals and laughter from an enthused group of children, ranging in age from one to six. For those in our staff with young children, this child-friendly room is a much welcome addition to the LIRNEasia landscape, as it allows one to keep an eye on their off spring while continuing to work. Yesterday was a riot, where precious little was done in the form of work while the little ones were here. However, on other days that they have taken turns to visit the office, work progressed as usual.
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) held their very first stakeholder forum in Asia today, in Yangon, Myanmar. The forum was richly attended by Government, Civil Society, Mobile Service Providers, Media and Researchers. LIRNEasia was also invited to attend, as an important player in Myanmar’s ICT area. The forum was graced briefly by the Hon. Deputy Minister of Communication and Information Technology U.
Myanmar is called the last greenfield of telecommunications. There is a great deal of interest in the country, which has one of the lowest rates of mobile phone penetrations in the world. Yet with two private mobile phone giants entering the market in 2014, the commodity has become as commonplace here as it is anywhere else in the world. Earlier this month, I travelled through urban and rural Myanmar for 5 full days. Wherever I looked, the presence of mobile phone technology was glaring.
In a world where everyone is reaching for better, faster and more feature packed mobile phones, a little known Australian company has designed and manufactured a mobile phone focusing on the bare minimum, with the elderly in mind, particularly those with mental and physical limitations. The KISA phone (KISA stands for Keeping It Simple Always), designed in consultation with community organizations such as Vision Australia and Guide Dogs Victoria, first marketed the product in August last year and is aimed at those who struggle with technology. It has been received as an excellent mobile communications solution for people with impaired vision, hearing or dexterity. This is a compact phone, light enough to be worn around the neck with a lanyard strap and can be pre-programmed with up to 10 numbers. It can receive calls from any number, just like a regular phone although it can dial out only the numbers that were preset.
How do YOU think? We tell ourselves that when people are faced with making a decision, they would make reasonable, well informed and carefully thought out decisions. Oftentimes, we think (unconsciously of course) that other people think in the same way that we ourselves do. But for the vast majority of time, this is just not how it works. The latest World Development Report explains the three principles of human decision making: thinking automatically, thinking socially, and thinking with mental models.