In recent years, Myanmar has made significant progress towards affordable internet access, following sustained coalition building efforts led by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), improved investment in broadband infrastructure, and a return to democratic rule. Myanmar met the UN Broadband Commission’s affordability target in 2017, and this increased connectivity and improved affordability has boosted digital business and e-commerce and helped to create a vibrant online community.
But today, drastic proposals introduced by Myanmar’s military junta threaten to derail that progress, in sharp contrast to the values of the free and open web for everyone, everywhere. These proposed rules undermine the efforts and hopes of Myanmar’s civil society for the digital and democratic transformation of the country. A4AI and the Web Foundation stand with the human rights and business groups opposing these measures.
After the military seized power last month, they cut off access to the internet and blocked VPN use. Reports suggest that further oppressive action may be taken, and we are particularly concerned about the proposed cybersecurity law. The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business identified serious threats to the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression in the draft law, and the Myanmar Computer Federation and Computer Association argues that it creates obstacles for young people, online learning and online banking, while also hindering the development of the country’s digital economy. We share the concerns of Myanmar’s civil society that this law would preclude privacy rights, stifle education opportunities and ultimately deter technological innovation.
Pushed by our collective endeavour for an open, safe and empowering web for everyone, and driven by the vision set out in the Contract for the Web, we call on the Myanmar military junta to ensure everyone can connect to the internet all of the time, and to respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights.
We support the petitions of the civil society groups in Myanmar pushing the military junta to drop the proposed cybersecurity law, and we urge the military junta to consider the long-term impact these proposals will have on the country’s digital economy. Restricted access to the internet, internet shutdowns and laws that threaten freedom of expression and speech and infringe on the privacy of citizens will only drive more people offline and impede on civil liberties.