News / Asia

Burma’s Analog Government Goes Digital

FILE - People use the use computers at an internet cafe in Rangoon, Burma, Nov. 21, 2011.
FILE - People use the use computers at an internet cafe in Rangoon, Burma, Nov. 21, 2011.
VOA News
Burma's government is hoping to take a technological leap forward soon, by putting ministries online and in touch with the country's increasingly Internet-savvy public. Some government ministries are going online for the first time this week.

Burma's government still processes its business the same way it has for decades: with massive bound ledgers that record marriages, business taxes and even internal official documents. But this paper-based system is on its way out, as ministries try to switch to computers.

It’s a daunting undertaking in a country where even in the capital Naypyitaw, most government buildings still suffer from power outages.

Myint Kyaw, the director of the information department in the Information Ministry, is in charge of the program that aims to bring all 36 ministries online, with their own web-portals and administrative software, by the 2015 election.

He admitted that short deadline was made even more challenging because most government employees did not know how to use computers. He said of those who were computer savvy, many prefer to spend time on Facebook, making it a great way to connect to the public.

“Because so many people from our country use Facebook, very easy way to get information to put the more information so they can distribute. They can contribute personal information and organizational information.” he said.

Facebook is the most widely used tool for communicating online in Burma. Only about one percent of Burma’s population have access to the internet, but the vast majority of those users are believed to have Facebook accounts. Political parties, journalists and even presidential spokesperson Ye Htut communicates with the public through Facebook.

Freedom House categorized the Internet in Burma as “not free” in 2013, with obstacles to access and poor infrastructure identified as major problems. Although previously blocked websites have been unblocked, and the maximum sentence for a violation of the electronic transactions act has been reduced from 15 to 7 years, analysts say authorities still have along way to go to create a free Internet environment.

Nay Phone Latt is a blogger and former political prisoner, who was charged with crimes under the electronic transactions act.  Now that he has been released, he is advising the government on its communication policies, and said he’s optimistic about how much willingness the government has shown to change. He said the ministry was now using its website to ask the public for input, a stark change from even a few years ago.

“Actually in earlier days the government think they are in the higher ranks and they can decide everything; they don’t need [the] people's advice...actually in a democratic society the key player is not only the government,” he said.

Security concerns are paramount for those ministries trying to implement computerized systems for their administrative tasks.

Information Matrix is a Burmese IT company that is creating software for the government, and managing director Thaung Su Nyein said many were concerned the transition could leave them vulnerable to potential security breaches.

“Security is really key here especially because we are still unsure about where this technology will lead us so it’s kind of like we’re testing the water now. None of us in the technology field want to see a security related incident that’s blown out of proportion and scares all the government ministers and they all start running away from implementing IT,” he said.

The Korean government is assisting the Burmese government in their long-term action plan for updating the country’s Internet network, which will have been completely executed by 2030.

The Internet first came to Burma in the year 2000, and was at first only for the military. Service expanded slowly and remained much too expensive for ordinary users. But now people are using smartphones to go online, rapidly increasing the numbers of users.

The government anticipates having 30 million Internet users, roughly half the population, by 2015.

You May Like

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs