Burma’s Largest IT Center Opens—But For How Long?
covering burma and southeast asia
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Burma

Burma’s Largest IT Center Opens—But For How Long?


By Shah Paung Friday, December 21, 2007


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The largest information technology center, or cyber city, in Burma opened in mid-December. However, the project has been criticized as of little benefit to the people of Burma.

The opening ceremony of the Burma Yadanabon Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Park, also known as “Yadanabon Cyber City,” took place on December 14 and was attended by Burmese military government leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe and several top military officers.

According to Burmese state media, the center is situated on 10,000 acres of land, over one-fifth of which will house the production of software and hardware. The project is located in the town of Yadanabon Myothit, near Pyin Oo Lwin, about 67 km east of Mandalay. 

However, several sources from the media and from computer departments at universities in Burma say that the objective of the project is simply to show foreign government visitors that the authorities are successfully developing the economy and to attract more foreign investment in Burma.

According to the editor of a weekly journal, Rangoon will remain the IT and business center of the country, because most students and IT experts were based either there or in Mandalay. He added that it would not be easy to contract IT personnel to work in Yadanabon Cyber City and that transportation costs would become a problem.

According to a writer in Mandalay, most of his friends who are working in IT are not interested in investing in Yadanabon Cyber City because it is located too far from the cities for most people to want to travel to.

The New Light of Myanmar reported on Monday said that during the opening ceremony Than Shwe “gave guidance, saying that in accord with weather and environmental conditions Yadanabon Myothit was set up for the development of modern information and communication technologies in Myanmar [Burma].”

“As the government has provided a water and power supply, communications and administration facilities for the new town, it is necessary to create good opportunities for enabling local and foreign entrepreneurs to make investments at the teleport and to smoothly carry out modern information and technological tasks,” Than Shwe added.

However, the source in Mandalay said: “It will offer some benefit for a few foreign companies, but I cannot see that it will benefit Burmese people much.”

The Burmese military authorities began construction of the IT center’s main building at the end of June, 2006, after the area was cleared of jungle. The state media said that a total of 11 local and foreign companies had proposed investments in the project. Foreign investors include: Shin Satellite from Thailand; ZTE and Alcatel Shanghai Bell of China; IP Tel Sdn Bhd (Malaysia); and CBOSS (Russia).

However, sources inside Burma said that many people doubt whether the project will come to fruition, because even in large cities like Rangoon and Mandalay, the government cannot provide enough electricity to run businesses. Electricity is currently rationed to six hours per day in rotation across those cities. 

Internet café owners in Burma still have to use their own generators to power their work stations. According to the Open Net Initiative Bulletin, Burma is one of 30 counties that has less than one percent Internet penetration, an estimate of just under 300,000 Internet users nationwide in 2005.

Burma has two Internet service providers, or ISPs—state-owned Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT); and BaganNet/Myanmar Teleport, formerly known as Bagan Cybertech.

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