Interview: U Sai Saw Lin Tun
With ASEAN Economic Community integration nearing, what elements have been identified to improve Myanmar’s ICT capabilities?
SAI SAW LIN TUN: Priorities for the improvement of ICT capabilities in Myanmar include the transfer of global technology, knowledge, skills, experiences and an international standard of governance to local companies and workforces.
Local operators can contribute by training internal human resources and collaborating with other companies to bolster the industry and promote sustainable development. Increased regional cooperation and the further reduction of trade barriers between ASEAN countries will make it easier and more cost effective to source certain manufactured and processed goods that local and international companies need to expand operations.
Boosted regional cooperation will make it easier to attract and engage regional expertise to help support and grow telecoms operations. Fostering home-grown talent in the ICT sector will also be essential. Through international agreements and partnerships with sector experts in countries such as Japan, theoretical and practical training can be provided to support the Myanmar workforce, increasing efficiency and proficiency of practices among telecoms operators.
The continued growth of the industry, which will be aided by ASEAN integration, will allow its players to make competitive offers to local workers. The prospect of being able to play a part in such a dynamically changing field as the Myanmar telecoms industry would help keep talent at home.
The ICT sector also has a big role to play in the development of the labour force. The expansion of digital coverage and usage has great potential for the education sector. This expansion can open up the possibility of high-quality distance learning by offering new modes of delivery such as online courses, degrees and other e-learning initiatives. These forms have the potential to transform teaching and learning processes. Furthermore, the transfer of data made possible by the expansion of mobile broadband technology is particularly crucial to finding new ways to deliver educational content over long distances, which is essential in a diverse landscape with hard-to-reach rural communities.
What has been the reaction of the market to the introduction of 3G? What challenges have arisen as a result of the change?
TUN: The domestic market has reacted positively to the deployment of 3G technology around the country. Myanmar has seen a rapid increase in the sale of inexpensive smart phones, which has enabled faster internet browsing and smoother operation of social networking sites, as well as a dramatic increase in the amount of Facebook, Viber and Line accounts.
The future launch of 4G technology is under consideration, but at the moment the highest priority is to expand the 2G and 3G networks across the country as quickly as possible. Providing 4G coverage also involves further frequency allocation. As of December 2015, MPT had more than 17m subscribers, and we aim to increase population coverage to 95% by the end of March 2016.
Expansion does not come without its challenges. There are several obstacles to infrastructure development and expansion, one being a lack of clarity over land ownership and legal rights, which continues to hinder the progress of tower installation. It is not uncommon for potential landlords to have inadequate documentation covering their rights over real property. This means even greater due diligence is required before entering into any contracts over land, and ultimately results in a more cautious pace of expansion for telecoms operators.
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