FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – International development in Burma should be tied to measurable technology progress that advances freedom of expression, a report issued today by Radio Free Asia’s Open Technology Fund (OTF) advises. “Internet Access and Openness: Myanmar 2012” evaluates Burma’s existing ICT environment in light of recent political and media reforms. These developments have inspired the desire for greater transparency and sharing of information among its citizens. The report finds Burma “undecided” at this historic juncture, “in which a precarious ICT framework holds both the legacy of autocratic conditions and yet also clear efforts to modernize and democratize.”
“The findings show Burma at a 21st century technological crossroads that pits its authoritarian past against the gleaming promise of recent reforms,” said Libby Liu, Radio Free Asia (RFA) president. “This report is an example of the kind of baseline data-collection and analysis needed to enable informed investments and sound policies for countries in transition, like Burma.
“For RFA, Internet freedom is an essential part of our mission to provide people with the tools and information needed to make their own decisions and express their opinions freely.”
Even as Burma’s citizens demand greater Internet access and transparency from their government, the country’s limited digital infrastructure is still out of reach for the vast majority of the population. In addition, concerns continue as to whether the government will relinquish operational control of the communications industry as outside investors and technologists are poised to seek opportunities in the country’s emerging telecommunications market. Widespread poverty makes inaccessible many technologies, including owning a mobile phone or acquiring a SIM card for the majority of Burmese. These are among the many hurdles and challenges Burma faces as it seeks to reach 80 percent telecom coverage by 2016 (from 9 percent at present).
Using information gathered during an RFA-led technology delegation’s visit to Burma in 2012, the report provides a technical analysis of Internet access, performance and GSM security, and information on obtaining access to smartphones and the mobile Internet. The report identifies a baseline of media and communications indicators during Burma’s current transition, helping policymakers, investors, and civil society and human rights groups assess the country’s progress in establishing communications infrastructure and freedom of expression.
Key findings include:
The full report may be accessed here.