Imposing an additional tax on a specific good or service results in the reduction of its use. Generally, this is recommended for demerit goods such as alcohol and tobacco. In Myanmar, the government appears to believe telecom is a demerit good, collecting a five percent tax from all telecom bills since April 2016. The President says it will be used in sectors that “directly help people.” But this report shows that all funds collected after April have gone to general expenditures of government.
There was a time when oil and gas attracted the most FDI in Myanmar. This is FDI that results in greater exports by enabling the unlocking of the resources under the ground and the waters of Myanmar. One can debate how much of the risk is borne by whom and whether the returns are proportional to risk. But generally, greater FDI in the energy sector is a good thing for a country like Myanmar, seeking to move out of least-developed-country status. The fact that telecom is the biggest attractor of FDI in a country so rich in resources is not something to be celebrated.
It’s been a while since LIRNEasia research has been featured in Indian newspapers. We’re making up for that: “70% of the institutional players such as schools, banks and health centers in rural India are not aware of government’s BharatNet initiative,” IIT Delhi professor and co-author P Vigneswara Ilavarasan of a survey by a think-tank LIRNEasia, told ET. He added that the overall Internet usage was low in areas where broadband has already reached. The findings were based on a survey conducted in the BharatNet pilot areas that included 1,329 institutional respondents in the Arain, Rajasthan, and Vizag and Parvada in Andhra Pradesh village blocks. “Of the overall scale, 30% of the respondents said that they are aware of the BharatNet scheme of which 8% claimed to have known the mega project very well,” the LIRNEasia survey found.
The purpose behind our work in CPRsouth and the broadband policy courses we have been offering in the South Asian region is catalysis. We speed up or initiate. The participants in the courses do the heavy lifting. Here is evidence it’s working. Preeti Mudliar has published a report on the Indian NOFN/BharatNet: This study visits the three pilot project sites to find out how the NOFN infrastructure is faring three years after it was first rolled out to 58 gram panchayats (village local bodies) in India.
Just a few days before we presented our research to senior policy makers at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Indian Express carried a story highlighting some shortcomings in the implementation of BharatNet. This was possibly linked to a parliamentary question that had been posed around then. Now in a follow up piece, the journalist has directly quoted our research: A survey conducted by think-tank LIRNEasia and IIT-Delhi suggested that the use of BharatNet was in single-digits across areas surveyed. “Institutional users are pertinent as they would take the broadband from the gram panchayats to the individual consumers and households. The survey reveals that only one third of them use internet and nearly 70 per cent of non-users do not have any intention to use internet in near future.
This was the fourth (or fifth if one broadens the definition) broadband course we had taught in India. But there was something different about this course. Possibly it was because NOFN/BharatNet was becoming real on the ground. But it was not yet real in terms of connecting people as indicated by the report below. Out of the 65,475 gram panchayats where optic fibre cable has been laid, only 14,569 gram panchayats across 22 states have active connectivity as on December 6, according to Bharat Broadband Network Ltd.
Earlier this week I was asked to speak at the Myanmar Digital Rights Forum. While many countries worried about connecting people for about a decade after deregulation, and only then started debating about the “softer” issues of the Internet, Myanmar is engaging in this debate now. What kind of Internet should people of Myanmar connect to? How can Myanmarese ensure their basic human writes in their digital lives? How to make the Internet experience safe?
This is a big deal. For all countries, but especially for Bangladesh and Myanmar which were hitherto dependent on a single undersea cable and few terrestrial links. Of course, construction being completed does not mean that the data is flowing at all points. That will hopefully happen quickly in all countries. If you read the full report, you will see that the international units of both China Telecom and China Mobile are investors in the consortium.
I wrote earlier about the importance of timing when companies enter new markets. One hopes that this timetable will be adhered to in this fast maturing market. U Zaw Min Oo, a director of Myanmar Technologies and Investment Corporation – one of the 11 local firms – told The Myanmar Times this week that he expects the telco to receive its licence on December 21. “The ministry is arranging to provide the telecom license on that day in Nay Pyi Taw,” he said, adding that he could not share any further details of the new firm. U Zaw Min Oo said in October that senior management positions have been filled, with a Viettel official taking the chief executive position.
LIRNEasia’s 2016 nationally representative survey of household and individual ICT use in Myanmar was released to the public at an event on Friday the 16th at the Novotel Max hotel in Yangon. MIDO and LIRNEasia talked to the news media following the presentation of the results. We are off to Nay Pyi Taw next week to present to government officials. Slides will be posted online next week, after the local events are concluded. The media coverage from the event is as follows: 1.
Helani Galpaya, along with MIDO’s research team, released in Yangon the results of the second teleuse survey conducted in Myanmar earlier in 2016. The first coverage: People would only enjoy the fruits of digital development when the country overcame difficulties in promoting digital literacy skills, the survey said. According to the survey, 78 per cent of mobile handsets had access to internet, similar to the smartphone usage in the US. Mobile phone ownership had increased from 57 per cent in February 2015 to 83 per cent, it said. Almost every household owned more than two SIM cards while about 61 per cent of households had TV and only 16 per cent had a radio.
Replacing a phone can be postponed. Getting a new connection? That too can be postponed. It appears these things are being done. I guess we can expect a surge in purchases once the new notes are available.
It is a lot of pain, but it seems the demonetization is going to make India a leader in m-financial services. Across the country, about 70,000 merchants a day are signing up for India’s best-selling mobile payments platform, Paytm, about 14 times as many as the daily average before the currency decision, said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and chief executive of Paytm and One97 Communications, the start-up behind it. Since the large-currency ban, the number of daily transactions on Paytm has grown to nearly six million, an increase of 350 percent, and the service is adding half a million users each day, Mr. Sharma said. “Earlier, we were the innovator, now we are the mainstream,” he said.
When I was looking for countries with smartphone penetration higher than Myanmar (78%), and of course there was Singapore. So with more than 80% smartphone penetration and the 2G networks about to be shut down and spectrum reallocated, it’s no wonder sales of 2G-only phones are being discontinued. Wonder who will be next? Singapore’s mobile operators will shut down their 2G networks from April 1 to allow IMDA to re-allocate spectrum for more advanced mobile services. IMDA is working with operators to facilitate the migration of remaining 2G users to 3G or 4G networks, allowing subscribers to upgrade their devices while maintaining their plans and monthly subscription costs.
There is no shortcut to universal access of broadband. Very distinct four segments of broadband supply chain are to be addressed in a synchronized fashion. They are: International connectivity, domestic connectivity, metro networks and access networks. We have detected international connectivity being the ‘Achille’s Heel’ in Asia’s broadband value chain. Our research has prompted the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to adopt Asia Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS).
Myanmar is the rising star in global telecoms market and anything new hits the headlines. Bharti Airtel’s claim of activating a terrestrial optical fiber cable link between India and Myanmar is one such example. An undisclosed sum has been reportedly invested in a 6,500rkm (route km) terrestrial link. It will be connected to Airtel’s landing stations in Chennai and Mumbai. Ajay Chitkara, the company’s director & CEO (global voice & data business) told the Economic Times: ‘The terrestrial cable link is a strategic fibre asset for Airtel in the SAARC region, which will enable the company to offer robust end-to-end connectivity solutions in Myanmar, which is seeing rapid uptake of digital services as one of the last growth frontiers in Asia.