Eye on Myanmar

The Burmese ICT Landscape

Myanmar has been hitting the right notes in the news media recently. Since the April 1st by-elections in which the National League for Democracy (NLD) — Aung San Suu Kyi’s party — won by landslide victory, the country appears to be on an accelerated path to democratic and economic reforms. For 50 years, Myanmar’s economy was closed off from the world. However, the country’s reforms have ratcheted up foreign economic interest in the country, and there is talk in the West of easing trade sanctions. The European Union has gone as far as agreeing to suspend most sanctions on Myanmar in response to the political sea change, even as the nation hastens to unlock its economic doors to the world.

The Internet and telecommunications space seems especially attractive for investment. In this country with 60 million people, a mere 5% of the population has access to fixed-lines—out of which 1.5% own mobile phones and 0.5% broadband access (World Bank, 2010). The Myanmar Post and Telecommunications Ministry’s (MPT) has a Master Plan which is aiming for 50% ICT penetration by 2015, indicating a concerted effort by the government to expand and advance the telecommunications sector. In tandem, both large and small businesses have started venturing or are exploring opportunities in Myanmar’s telco market.

This month, International Telecommunication Holding Ltd (ITHL), a Singapore-based optic network company, signed an agreement with MPT to build fiber-optic networks in the country, and NTT Data, a Japanese  firm, announced plans to invest in a software development unit in Yangon. With the population expecting better ICT access and infrastructure in the country, and with demands for technology services arising from economic growth, Myanmar’s ICT landscape bears close monitoring over the next few months.

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