We’ve been excited for some time about the energy and enthusiasm in the start-up space in Myanmar for some time. But it is still great to see the country and its young people gain the attention of the Economist.
Still, a few firms have begun to blossom since its ruling generals began opening up the economy in 2011. Back then, less than 1% of Burmese people could access the internet. But with wireless towers now popping up across the country, the government thinks 80% of citizens may have a mobile phone with a data connection by 2016. Small, local firms are racing to benefit: MySQUAR, a social network, said on March 22nd it was hoping to raise $2.5m by listing in London. There is Rebbiz, which runs property and jobs portals; Bindez, a search engine; and NEX and Technomation, which design smartphone apps.
With little proficiency in foreign languages, Myanmar’s web users are clamouring for local content. But Yangon’s tech entrepreneurs—who include home-grown talent and returning emigrants—face many hurdles. Good programmers remain sparse: coders who trained to work on government projects may not know the open-source languages from which many online services are now built. Competing standards for encoding the Burmese alphabet are making it tricky to produce text that will be readable on all devices.