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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid