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Enabling Affordable Access for Socio-Economic Growth in Myanmar

Participants at the A4AI-Myanmar Coalition meeting workshop. (Photo: Ramat Tejani, GSMA, ramattejani.com)

At the end of July, members of the A4AI team and the A4AI-Myanmar Coalition convened in Nay Pyi Taw — the Myanmar capital city and home to the country’s national government — for the first meeting of the A4AI-Myanmar Coalition since the National League for Democracy party assumed government leadership in April 2016. From July 20-22, government ministers, private sector operator representatives, and civil society actors came together to participate in both the coalition meeting and a two-day capacity building workshop.

 

Over 70 stakeholders joined the A4AI Coalition on July 20 and 21 for the “Mobile Regulation for Socio-Economic Development” workshop, led by the GSMA’s Capacity Building Programme trainer Ronda Zelezny-Green. This workshop explored the power of mobile and fixed broadband to drive growth, expand foreign investment in the country’s infrastructure, and promote economic growth, and covered topics from mobile agriculture and digital education, to mobile-enabled governance services for citizens. Participants explored issues around mobile broadband network regulation, good taxation practices, and different regulatory models for expanding access for rural populations. A4AI Executive Director Sonia Jorge highlighted shared with participants the positive effects similar capacity building workshops have had on affordability work for the A4AI coalitions in Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana and the Dominican Republic, and highlighted the critical role of all stakeholders to strengthen ICT policy and expand access. Deputy Minister U Kyaw Myo of the Ministry of Transportation and Communication echoed this sentiment, calling for greater collaboration among operators, service providers and the government to improve policymaking for affordable Internet access.

 

On July 22, over 50 stakeholders gathered for the first official A4AI-Myanmar Coalition meeting with new government ministers in place. U Soe Thein, Director-General of Myanmar’s Post and Telecommunications Department, underscored the great potential for socio-economic growth presented by affordable, universal access, and highlighted recent positive developments in Myanmar, including the establishment of a government infrastructure sharing committee, which will aim to identify bottlenecks stifling the sharing of passive resources among stakeholders. Director-General U Soe Thein also encouraged the coalition members to strengthen their efforts to mainstream the multi-stakeholder voice in regulatory processes, by developing and presenting strategic policy recommendations to various government ministries.

 

The Coalition then broke up into its four working groups — (1) Infrastructure Sharing, (2) Data & Research, (3) Universal Service and Access Fund, and (4) Taxation — to discuss workplans and activities for the next six months:

 

Infrastructure Sharing:

  • Develop standards/procedures for construction in special zones (e.g., cultural zones, hotel zones);
  • Develop recommendations to facilitate infrastructure sharing in urban areas;
  • Provide recommendations regarding streamlining of the Farmland change of use process to aid infrastructure development in rural areas;
  • Develop recommendations to facilitate access to public owned infrastructure; and
  • Provide recommendations to facilitate the registration of leases, which will be critical to encouraging increased infrastructure investment.

 

Data and Research Group:

  • Identify and collect data on relevant indicators related to ICT development and publish the datasets periodically;
  • Develop a robust framework for data collection and reporting in Myanmar;
  • Formulate a national framework for ICT data collection and reporting by government agencies, led by civil society;
  • Conduct a workshop on ICT data collection methodologies and define the process for data collection and dissemination; and
  • Carry out specific surveys, in collaboration with relevant government agencies, (e.g., ICT household use, ICT development).

 

Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF):

  • Support the World Bank consultants appointed by the government to investigate and establish Myanmar’s USAF;
  • Ensure a multi-stakeholder-based approach to designing, establishing and managing the Fund by engaging all stakeholders involved in defining Myanmar’s universal access strategy;
  • Have regular face to face meetings with the World Bank consultants; and
  • Hold public consultations for developing the USAF strategy and other consultations required by the World Bank consultants.

 

Taxation:

  • Identify ways and means to reduce the tax burden in the entire telecom value chain so as to pass on the benefits to end-users;
  • Explore innovative revenue generation models for the government through the introduction of taxes on revenues generated by service providers riding on the network;
  • Develop a transparent taxation/fiscal map of the ICT sector;
  • Undertake a comparative study on the tax policies of Myanmar with that of other ASEAN nations; and
  • Develop a one-stop page on Myanmar telecom taxation.

 

To view presentations and additional detail from the July 2016 coalition meeting and workshop in Myanmar, please visit the A4AI-Myanmar National Coalition page.

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