Misuse of universal service funds in Myanmar


Posted by Rohan Samarajiva on June 12, 2020  /  0 Comments

One can debate the pros and cons of SIM registration. It is difficult to argue that SIMs should be treated differently from cars, which can also be used for good and ill. Cars are therefore registered in ways that associate a natural or legal person with the device.

Yet, as our colleague Htaike Htaike Aung points out below, there can be no justification for the abuse of funds built up from a 2 percent tax on telecom users to support a SIM database, that has nothing to do with the stated objectives of the universal service fund.

According to the strategy paper seen by The Myanmar Times, the fund is intended for developing infrastructure and digital literacy training programmes, connecting people in commercially non-viable areas and implementing projects for minorities, persons with disabilities and poor people. Biometrics projects are not included.

The 2013 Telecommunications Law says that the fund should be used for the universal service plans to expand telecom infrastructure and services in the underserved areas.

“The ministry is definitely using it outside of the scope of what the Universal Service Fund is traditionally used for,” commented Daw Htaike Htaike Aung, executive director of Myanmar ICT for Development Organisation (MIDO), a civil society organisation.

She said it opens the door to political interventions in the future and risks ineffective utilisation and management of the fund.

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