Myanmar Connected? Internet Governance Capacity Building in Post-Authoritarian Contexts

//IPO Affiliate Andrea Calderaro explains the implications of Myanmar’s massive Internet expansion by looking at both infrastructure and legislation

Almost 3 years have passed since the government of Myanmar initiated its connectivity building plan, in the context of an unprecedented period of political reforms. As detailed in the recently published paper, Digitalizing Myanmar: Connectivity Developments in Political Transitions, Myanmar is currently witnessing an extremely rapid process of constructing connectivity – both from an infrastructural and policy perspective. Just before the launch of this ambitious process, only 0.98% of the population was connected to the Internet, and 2.3% had a mobile phone, usable only via weak mobile infrastructure limited to the main urban areas (2011 figures).

Moreover, in a country that has until recently demonstrated continued lack of respect for the freedom of expression, the construction of connectivity infrastructure has raised concerns about the respect for human rights, notably the freedom of expression and right to privacy. In this context, it is of particular interest to scrutinize the development of the regulatory and policy framework aimed at securing basic digital rights in the connectivity sector.

Today, a network of mobile towers is widely spread over the country, and newly established international operators have launched new services, counting more than 20 million mobile subscribers and securing mobile internet connectivity to 30% of the population. This tremendous growth within such a limited time frame suggests that Myanmar is the country with the fastest connectivity building process ever seen worldwide. However, a lot of work has yet to be done from a regulatory and policy perspective.

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Digitalizing Myanmar: Connectivity Developments in Political Transitions

Dr. Andrea Calderaro is a researcher at the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom at the European University Institute, and his work focuses on ICTs and International Affairs. He is currently engaged in research on connectivity building and telecom reforms happening in Myanmar with CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory. Follow him on twitter at: @andreacalderaro

Following decades of isolation, Myanmar is undergoing a profound and sudden political transition. This transition includes the rapid development of the country’s telecommunication infrastructures and related policy framework. With one of the lowest internet and mobile subscriber rates in the world, building connectivity in Myanmar is facing multiple challenges from both infrastructural and policy perspectives. (Please see Monroe Price’s blog posts on the policy challenges in Myanmar here and here).

As Myanmar builds connectivity infrastructure, it is necessary that the country also implements…

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