As the National League for Democracy party prepares for transition following last month’s landslide election victory, the A4AI-Myanmar working groups convened in Yangon to continue their efforts to shape policy for affordable Internet access across the country.
For many years, low-capacity infrastructure, basic services, and lack of a policy and regulatory framework characterised Myanmar’s telecommunications sector. Before ICT reforms launched in 2013, only 1.2% (ITU) of the population were online; since then, the country’s ICT sector has grown at a breakneck pace. Over the past year, mobile broadband use has jumped from an estimated 11% in 2014 to nearly 24% in 2015 (GSMA).
Continued progress will require collaboration between all sectors, and it has been promising to see diverse stakeholders contributing to the A4AI-Myanmar Coalition efforts so far. Participants at the December 11th meeting included representatives from the Myanmar Computer Federation (MCF), civil society organisations such as Phandeeyar, mobile operators Ooredoo and Telenor, ICT research institutions, six government ministries, and the Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications Department (PTD).
The meeting opened with a moderated discussion on the opportunities that affordable Internet will bring to Myanmar, and the challenges that must be addressed to keep up with growing demand for more affordable and widespread access. U Soe Thein, the acting Director General of the PTD shared a brief presentation on Myanmar’s strategy to achieve universal access, after which PTD Director U Than Htun Aung provided an update on the progress to date.
Participants then broke into one of four working groups — (1) Infrastructure Deployment and Sharing, (2) Taxation, (3) Universal Service Fund, (4) Data and Research — to tackle the activities outlined in work plans developed at the Coalition’s July meeting. We were pleased to see return attendees as well as a large number of newcomers join the working group sessions, which set out key next steps for the coalition to kickstart affordable Internet efforts in 2016. Working group participants agreed to:
- Develop a map of network infrastructure in Myanmar, as well as recommendations for keeping it up-to-date;
- Run a workshop on global best practices for reducing taxation on smartphones and recommendations for the implementation of these practices in Myanmar;
- Collaborate with consultants appointed to establish the Universal Access Fund; and
- Define key indicators to measure progress of broadband expansion in Myanmar.