OBG talks to U Myat Hein, Minister of Communications and Information Technology

U Myat Hein, Minister of Communications and Information Technology

Interview: U Myat Hein

How can citizens in Myanmar be encouraged to adopt new communication technologies? What steps are being taken to boost internet uptake?

U MYAT HEIN: There is a very strong appetite from the people of Myanmar for new mobile services. As in other emerging countries that liberalised their telecoms markets, the take up of mobiles is expected to be quick and massive. One of the best means to encourage citizens to adopt new technologies would be affordable prices. During the selection process for the two nationwide licences, the ability of the applicants to deploy new and innovative technologies was given a strong preference. Further, Myanmar Post Telecommunication (MPT), the current provider, is going to be transformed from a government organisation into a commercially active operator to provide better services to subscribers. Once the two new operators launch their services, and as they improve their offerings, our citizens will be able to use new and innovative telecoms and IT technologies. This will ultimately affect them in many ways: changing the way they communicate, the way they conduct their daily business, they way they study, the way they get medical services and the way they spend their free time. The uptake rate will increase as people see the positive changes resulting from the use of these new technologies. This is the best strategy to encourage the adoption of new technologies and this is why the government wants to make sure that such technologies are readily available to all of Myanmar’s citizens – in urban and rural areas – at affordable prices. With regard to the promotion of internet usage, communications today means voice and data, and in many instances the importance of data greatly outpaces that of voice. During the selection process of the two operator licences, we made sure that their service plans included well-planned data offerings, or internet services through mobile phones. Additionally MPT is making the internet more accessible and more services available by increasing the bandwidth and providing a wider variety of the services it offers to the public.

What role is MPT expected to play in increasing mobile coverage in rural areas?

MYAT HEIN: MPT is the government operator and is already providing services to majority of rural areas. The low-cost mobile phones that MPT launched recently are aimed at making affordable mobile devices available in rural areas. Since it will take at least 10-12 months before the two selected operators will be able to deliver their services, the telecoms market will remain mainly driven by MPT during the next year. Apart from MPT, the two selected operators also have their specific commitments to roll out services to rural areas. To expand the coverage to rural and less-developed regions of the country, the ministry and the regulator can also exercise the Universal Service Obligation (USO) and collect a Universal Service Fund to finance USO activities. Finally, infrastructure sharing among the operators, under the control of the regulator, is expected to boost the development of mobile services in rural parts of the country by lowering the cost for the operators.

How can the private and public sectors work together to alleviate the shortage of skilled ICT workers?

MYAT HEIN: We acknowledge that, for various reasons, there is a serious shortage of skilled human resources in the ICT sector. The union government has started taking measures to address this issue, but it cannot be fully solved by the government alone. Recently, we can observe rising private sector participation in ICT human resource development. The new telecoms operators need to recruit local people to run their various services, such as sales and customer representation. The new operators will have to provide specific training to help their employees fulfil the requirements of these positions. To a certain extent, the operators are also expected to contribute to the development of the sector and the training of human resources through various social responsibility initiatives. We recently began to see growing private sector participation in ICT hiring efforts, so this transition getting is under way.

Anchor text: 
U Myat Hein

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The Report: Myanmar 2014

Telecoms & IT chapter from The Report: Myanmar 2014

Cover of The Report: Myanmar 2014

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This article is from the Telecoms & IT chapter of The Report: Myanmar 2014. Explore other chapters from this report.