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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid