Google alerted me that a new article had been published on Upgrading Myanmar’s internet connection by the well-funded and hyperactive A4AI. I had the alerts on because I’ve been working in Myanmar since 2012. I was surprised. The article reminded me of what the lawyers in the Attorney General’s Department in Sri Lanka call a balloon opinion. The words are there.
Yesterday, while I was moderating a panel on ICT policy and regulation, SDGs and inclusion at IIC 2016 in Bangkok, I was surprised to hear from a speaker representing the Alliance for Affordable Internet that “six billion people were without access to broadband.” I wrote it down. In subsequent comments I said the six billion number was “arguable.” The Facebook supported “State of Connectivity 2015” Report (prepared with the participation of A4AI as well as the ITU) states that 3.2 billion people (43 percent) were Internet users.
A box in 2015-16 Affordability Report of the Alliance for Affordable Internet includes a box on gender which begins thus: By March 2015, just over a year after liberalising their ICT sector, 40% of Myanmar’s population between the ages of 15-65 owned a mobile phone. Yet, women were 29% less likely to own a mobile phone than men. To understand the reasons for this gender gap in mobile phone ownership, GSMA and LIRNEasia conducted a qualitative study among 91 men and women in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, and Pantanaw, a small town in the southwestern part of the country. The research showed that women in Myanmar play a prominent role in the management of household finances — even if they do not earn anything themselves — and are frequently involved in the financial decision to purchase a mobile phone for the family. Yet women’s access to this family mobile phone is often limited because the phone tends to travel outside the home, with the person who is deemed to need it the most.
For sometime, Helani Galpaya has been communicating the message that affordability is not enough by itself for Internet use by the people of developing Asia. For example, this is what she said at a well-received presentation on SDGs at UN DESA, 8-9 June 2015. She has been saying this in a number of places and as is our custom, the slides have been placed on the web. Her conclusions were based on our research and ITU data and the proposed solutions also drew from several lines of our work. So we were not surprised to see the message being repeated in a blog and as the main headline of the A4AI newsletter.
A4AI has published all the slidesets used at the universal service workshop, that LIRNEasia attended. The presentations are here.