While Southeast Asia continues to rapidly embrace technology, particularly in terms of smartphones and the mobile industry in general, other countries that don’t seem at first to be joining the boom are now rising up to the occasion. Myanmar, also known as Burma, is one of those countries that are stepping up in the world of technology and could become a breakthrough ground for firms, startups, and other companies.
Myanmar, govern by a military dictatorship, recently went through some political liberalization and with it now comes economic growth. Confidence in the economy has grown by both the people of Myanmar and foreign investors, with the latter putting impressive capital into this starved cash country. With growing confidence and capital, Myanmar is ripe for consumer-based industries, such as Cola Cola and ad agency WPP, both having relocated back to Myanmar in relation to those changes. But this is only the beginning in the potential tech boom for a country populated by about 60 million people.
Research firm IDC also expects Burma’s 14% compound annual growth to be at about 268 million by the time 2016 rolls around. Basically, they have some money to throw around for the telecommunication and mobile industries once they’re able to get started, but it is nothing but potential for now. Potential because hard numbers are hard to come by in a country like Myanmar, where secrecy is still prevalent, though with the recent political opening, transparency is becoming more common. One number that is difficult to gauge is the number of Internet users. Facebook, normally is a good barometer to gauge the number of Internet users, but Myanmar is not found on their analytic service. Estimates, however, have came out recently that there are two to three million phone users at Burma even though a low percentage of the population currently use the Internet.
Beyond Thailand and its surrounding countries, Burma is next on the list on most Asian tech firms to tackle next in terms of expansion once things get improved. In the meantime, there are a bunch of entrepreneurs and startups around trying to make things happen as Barcamp’s Yangon, a user-generated conference focusing on technology, keeps getting bigger numbers every year. I don’t expect Myanmar to blow up like crazy with technology companies for the short term, but in the long term, it will be a big Asian market because their potential is almost as limitless as their great natural resources. And their biggest resource is probably the people, so hungry to be part of the global world that have been denied to them for so long.
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