Myanmar


It appears that Myanmar’s universal service strategy has been finalized. Our work was represented in the draft that was put out for comments, but we made additional comments on that draft, which are here. Current mobile networks cover over 90% of Myanmar’s population, but the government believes the USF will be necessary to fund the development of network towers in unserved areas. Through the project the government is targeting 94% population coverage by the first quarter of next year and 99% coverage in the future. Once basic infrastructure is deployed to the rural areas, more advanced telecommunications services can be introduced in the future, the report states.
CEO Helani Galpaya was invited to speak in one of the panels at the Second European Multidiscriplinary Conference on Global Internet Governance Actors, Regulations, Transactions and Strategies held 26-27 April 2018 at Cardiff University, Wales. The theme of the conference this year was “Overcoming Inequalities in Internet Governance: framing digital policies and capacity building policies”. The conference was a peer-reviewed academic conference, but had two panels to which speakers were invited based on expertise. Helani spoke on the panel titled “Politics and Policy of Cyber Capacity Building” which had three other speakers: Emily Taylor (Chatham House), Panagiota-Nayia Barmpaliou (European Commission), Robert Collier (UK Cabinet, Foreign & Commonwealth Office).  The panel was moderated by Andrea Calderaro (Cardiff University).
Social science trains its adherents to be cautious. The dictionary meaning of “to determine” is “to cause (something) to occur in a particular way or to have a particular nature.” We are very careful is ascribing causation, though it is of course of the greatest interest. Lawyers are said to use word like surgeons use scalpels. But the lawyers sent out on Asian missions by the UN appear to use words like meat cleavers.
We are inviting Proposals from potential Bidders to conduct a qualitative study on ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities in Myanmar. The full RFP is given below. Please also see our FGD Sampling Table, Technical Proposal Template, Financial Proposal Template, and Draft Contract before submitting the proposals. Deadline for submissions is 09 April 2018.  
Hate speech is one area where our thinking was strongly influenced by work in Myanmar. I recall listening to a passionate presentation by Nay Phone Latt on the subject at an awareness program for legislators in Yangon and discussing the issues with Phyu Phyu Thi in relation to her research presentation at IGF in Joao Pessoa. When our researchers were on the field in Myanmar, the problems in the Rakhine emerged. This is a hard problem, requiring balance between prior restraint of speech and control of hate speech leading to violence. We will continue to engage with the topic.
Online hate speech has become commonplace in Myanmar. PEN Myanmar (2015) analysed posts from Facebook over a year, noting that the incidence of hate speech pertaining to a topic was often tied to a controversial, topical event– the appearance of posts regarding politics, for instance, increased during the elections held in November 2015. LIRNEasia and MIDO, along with Kantar TNS Myanmar, were on the field carrying out qualitative research in Myanmar in late August 2017 when conflict in the Rakhine region escalated.  Many accounts revolved around the prevailing conflict came up in the interviews with 95 respondents in Yangon, Mandalay and Myitkyina. A few respondents openly expressed their displeasure regarding the situation, and spoke of how the posts they encountered online pushed them to want to incite violence.
The results of our 2016 nationally representative survey were quoted extensively in Myanmar’s Universal Service Strategy document released in January 2018. This work has fed into the Government’s proposals in multiple areas including affordability, ownership of devices and digital skills. The manner in which our work on digital skills contributed towards the Government’s recommendations is depicted  in the table below. A more comprehensive document which includes the linkages between our work in affordability and ownership of devices can be found here.
It has always puzzled me why we have to conduct expensive surveys to find out what mobile operators already know. Every CDR [Call Detail Record] captures the IMEI number of the handset. It’s nothing to report this and thereby support those who are developing apps. Here is one MNO giving the data: Huawei was the most popular mobile handset brand among Telenor customers, according to a report from Telenor Myanmar. The report shows 24 percent of Telenor Myanmar’s over 19 million subscribers used Huawei handsets in 2017.
Nepal Telecom and Hong Kong-headquartered China Telecom Global has connected each other across Nepal’s northern border with Tibet through a mix of underground and all-dielectric self-supporting (ADSS) optical fiber cable network. Activation of this link on January 12, 2018 has ended the exclusivity of Tata’s and Bharti Airtel’s international connectivity to the landlocked Himalayan state. Now Nepal can procure IP-transit, interconnection bandwidth, international leased circuits and cloud services at highly competitive rates from Asia’s one of the two carrier-neutral hubs at Hong Kong (Singapore is the other one). Nepal has reportedly activated only 1.5 Gbps through the Chinese carrier, due to technical constrains of the ADSS link.
In Myanmar, the third operator overtook the second, and is close to the first. In Sri Lanka, the fourth operator reached first place within a few years and never let go of that position. That’s evidence enough that entry order is not the sole deciding factor. But the fact that MPT under new management is still in the lead shows that it’s not insignificant. One needs a new business model, a different technology or some secret sauce.
The consultation document on Myanmar’s Universal Service Strategy includes the following paragraph: For Myanmar, mobile voice and broadband data services are considered basic communications services and thus are part of the country’s universal service definition. In 2016, 83% of households have a mobile phone, and 78% of mobile phone owners have a smartphone, allowing broadband Internet services to be used on mobile devices. Clearly, the large majority of the population enjoys these services, therefore these ‘universal’ services also need to be made available for the minority that do not have these services today. Given how many countries debated whether or not broadband should be included in universal service subsidy programs, the above conclusion at the very outset of the program is quite significant. The conclusion is based on specific evidence.
Myanmar Times Opinion by Namali Premawardhana Namali Premawardhana’s op-ed based on the ITU’s Measuring the Information Society 2017 report and LIRNEasia’s own survey results has been published in Myanmar’s leading English newspaper, the Myanmar Times. Here are two of the summary paras: Two important aspects of ICT development which the ITU does not address are women and digital literacy. Myanmar’s story of ICT access, use and skills among women and other marginalised communities is less impressive than the broader narrative. The 2016 LIRNEasia data revealed that although more women in Myanmar own a phone now than in 2015, men were 28pc more likely to own a mobile phone. In addition, nearly half of mobile handset owners require help to perform basic activities with a phone, such as installation of an app, creating logins and passwords and adjusting settings.
Workshop on ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disability Event for disabled people’s organizations and media 12-13 December 2017 Yangon, Myanmar Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (MILI), established in 2011, is a self-help organization led by disabled persons that has been working at various levels and fighting for equal rights, inclusion and independent living of people with multiple types of disabilities in Myanmar. MILI promotes disability access in employment, education, health, disaster-risk reduction, social-enterprise, social, political, electoral and public sectors. LIRNEasia is a pro-poor, pro-market think tank established in 2004. It has been working on catalyzing policy change through research to improve people’s lives in the emerging Asia Pacific by facilitating their use of hard and soft infrastructures through the use of knowledge, information and technology. Myanmar ICT Development Organization (MIDO), established in 2012, uses Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a tool for the development of the country by narrowing the digital divide in Myanmar; using ICT for the country’s development and the safeguarding of human rights; and encouraging the emergence of good Internet policies for ICT users.
Nothing really new in my opinion, as the kind referral surmised. Asia is now Facebook’s biggest user base. That has given the company unprecedented political sway across the continent, where it inadvertently shapes the media consumption of hundreds of millions of people. The impacts are amplified in the region because vast swathes of relatively new internet users turn to Facebook first as their primary gateway to the rest of the web. Meanwhile, it’s become clear that the attitudes and policies the Menlo Park-based company adopted when it was primarily a U.
CEO Helani Galpaya was invited to speak at the Intersessional Panel of the UNCSTD. Her presentation was based on three themes at LIRNEasia.
Most of the organizations that were given time at the First Session of the Steering Committee meeting used the time to advertise themselves. I chose instead to present our broad range of contributions to AP-IS in the form of a short presentation of work done under the Project on Myanmar as an Inclusive Information Society. I briefly described some findings from the baseline and endline surveys, pointing out that much of what came out from the ITU on Internet users was worthless. We are not expecting to do such surveys again, though there is value in surveys being done periodically. My second point was on the need to develop an understanding of broadband quality of service experience.