Category Archives: Technology

Myanmar: End World’s Longest Internet Shutdown

Lift Restrictions in Embattled Rakhine, Chin States

A telecommunications tower in Mrauk U township, Rakhine State, where the Myanmar government has imposed an internet blackout.  © 2018 Phyo Hein Kyaw/AFP/Getty Images

(Bangkok) – The Myanmar government should immediately lift all internet restrictions in eight townships in Rakhine and Chin States, Human Rights Watch said today. The mobile internet shutdown, which began on June 21, 2019, is affecting more than a million people living in a conflict zone.

The internet shutdown, along with restrictions on access by aid agencies, has meant that people in some villages are unaware of the Covid-19 outbreak, humanitarian workers told Human Rights Watch. Local groups report that the shutdown has made it difficult to coordinate the distribution of aid to conflict-affected communities, and to communicate with their field teams to ensure staff safety. A local editor said the shutdown greatly impedes media coverage of the fighting between the Myanmar military and the ethnic Arakan Army, making it hard for villagers to get up-to-date information.

“Myanmar should immediately end what is now the world’s longest government-enforced internet shutdown,” said Linda Lakhdhir, Asia legal adviser at Human Rights Watch. “With armed conflict between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army in Rakhine State amid a pandemic, it’s critical for civilians to get the information needed to stay safe.”

The government first imposed restrictions on mobile internet communications in the townships of Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Maungdaw, Minbya, Mrauk-U, Myebon, Ponnagyun, and Rathedaung in Rakhine State and Paletwa township in Chin State. The government temporarily lifted restrictions in five townships from September 2019 until February 2020, when they were reinstated. On May 2, the authorities lifted the restrictions in Maungdaw.

On June 12, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications announced the government would extend the internet shutdown until at least August 1 in the remaining eight townships, citing security concerns. “We will restore internet service if there are no more threats to the public or violations of the telecommunications law,” said Soe Thein, the ministry’s permanent secretary, at a media briefing.

Article 77 of Myanmar’s Telecommunications Law authorizes the Ministry of Transport and Communications to suspend a telecommunications service or restrict certain forms of communication during “an emergency” situation. The broadly worded law should be amended to bring it in line with international standards to protect freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said.

Internet access plays a crucial role in enabling people to access information about Covid-19 and self-quarantine, and to observe other protocols to prevent the spread of the virus. A coalition of nongovernmental organizations has appealed to the World Health Organization (WHO) to urge Myanmar to end the internet shutdowns amid the pandemic. Intentionally shutting down or restricting access to the internet violates multiple rights in addition to freedom of expression, and undermines efforts to control the virus.

Aid groups told Human Rights Watch they feared that shortages of food and water were underreported in many villages in Chin and Rakhine States due to the communications blackout. They also said that in some communities, family members had not been able to send digital payments or contact friends and relatives in conflict areas. Since January 2019, hundreds of civilians have been killed and about 106,000 displaced by the fighting between the military and the Arakan Army.

Internet restrictions have also made it more difficult for the news media to safely gather information and promptly disseminate it. “It is affecting not just the daily activity of our reporting but also for getting news and fact-finding,” said Aung Marm Oo, editor of the Sittwe-based Development Media Group. “Even though our reporters went to conflict-affected areas and interviewed reliable sources, it is difficult to send the material back to the office because they don’t have internet access.”

In addition to the mobile internet, the Myanmar authorities have ordered the blocking of websites of independent and ethnic news media, among many other sites. Between March 19 and May 11, telecommunications operators and internet service providers received five directives from the Transport and Communications Ministry under article 77 of the Telecommunications Law to block 2,172 specific websites, of which 92 were alleged to provide “fake news.” Independent and ethnic media sites such as Development Media Group, Narinjara News, Karen News, and Voice of Myanmar were among those ordered blocked.

The Myanmar government should stop blocking media websites, Human Rights Watch said. State-mandated blocking of entire websites is an extreme measure that can only be justified as the least intrusive measure to protect a legitimate public interest. A broad claim that the sites are posting inaccurate news does not provide justification for blocking the websites in their entirety and indefinitely. The government has not made public any of the directives ordering internet shutdowns or blocking of websites.

The government contends that the mobile internet shutdown does not disrupt the dissemination of information because people in affected areas can use mobile SMS services and public address systems to receive government information. The internet can also be accessed in some locations via fixed connections.

However, the vast majority of internet users across Myanmar use mobile data – through cell phones – to access the internet, which provides more opportunity for people to access information quickly, particularly during crisis and conflict situations. A 2019 survey by Myanmar Survey Research found that while half the total population used the internet, of those users, all accessed the internet via their mobile devices.

The internet shutdown has also hampered monitoring of the extremely vulnerable ethnic Rohingya population in Rakhine State. In January, the International Court of Justice ordered the government to protect the Rohingya from genocidal acts.

Under international human rights law, Myanmar has an obligation to ensure that internet-based restrictions are provided by law and are a necessary and proportionate response to a specific security concern. Officials should not use broad, indiscriminate shutdowns to curtail the flow of information or to harm people’s ability to freely assemble and express political views.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has condemned measures by governments to prevent or disrupt online access and information and called for free speech protections under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In a 2015 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Responses to Conflict Situations, UN and regional organization experts said, “Using communications ‘kill switches’ (i.e. shutting down entire parts of communications systems) can never be justified under human rights law.” During crises, governments should refrain from blocking the internet and, as a matter of priority, ensure immediate access to the fastest and broadest possible internet service.

In January, UN human rights experts said in Myanmar, “The blanket suspension of mobile internet cannot be justified and must end immediately.”

“For a year now, the internet shutdown has severely impacted the rights of over a million people in Rakhine and Chin States,” Lakhdhir said. “The government should lift the shutdown, unblock websites, and amend the Telecommunications Law to bring it in line with international standards.”

Credit:www.hrw.org

SK Telecom sends cyber experts to Myanmar amid national SOC development

South Korean provider also targets expansion through Vietnam and Thailand

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) of Myanmar has moved to bolster cyber prevention and defence capabilities through a security-focused partnership with SK Telecom.

Terms of the contract will see the South Korean provider deploy a team of cyber security specialists to Myanmar to consult on the “design and establishment” of a security operation centre (SOC) at the government agency until the end of July.

Leveraging SK Telecom’s ‘Smart Guard’ solution, the team will attempt to diagnose security vulnerabilities within NCSC’s existing cyber security infrastructure, alongside offering infrastructure security management guidance and advice.

This is in addition to the provision of SIEM (security information and event management) offerings developed by Korean security specialist Igloo Security. The solution will “collect and analyse” information – such as logs, errors and hacking – generated by diverse systems including servers, network equipment and applications.

“We are pleased to establish our SOC with SK Telecom’s advanced technology and know-how in infrastructure security,” said Ko Ye Naing Moe, director of NCSC. “We will work closely with SK Telecom to better protect Myanmar’s national intelligence and intelligence resources.”

Operating as an agency under the Ministry of Transport and Communications in Myanmar, NCSC is tasked with safeguarding national intelligence against cyber threats, including hacking and distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attacks, as well as protecting the nation’s information and communication networks.

“SK Telecom will work closely with the NCSC to build a sophisticated security operation system in Myanmar to strengthen its protection against the ever-increasing cyber threats,” said Shim Sang-soo, vice president of Infra Business at SK Telecom. “Going forward, armed with strong cyber security capabilities, we will seek further business opportunities in other Asian markets.”

Following the export of services to Myanmar – which Sang-soo said serves as a “strategic hub” connecting the emerging ASEAN markets – SK Telecom expects to expand security reach across other Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and Thailand.

Credit: sg.channelasia.tech

Bamboo Technology Park : Inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Assam in Guwahati

Mr Sarbananda Sonowal
Assam Chief Minister Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal

The North-East of India is considered a paradise abound with unique and exquisite natural resources. Recently, Bamboo Technology Park was instituted at Chaygaon in Assam with an investment of Rs. 62.28 crore.

Bamboo is an abundant and a highly valued natural resource found in the North-East of India, particularly in Assam. Its anti-erosional and renewable property makes it a multipurpose resource. Due to its varied usage, it is copiously cultivated in the homesteads, village gardens, and agricultural lands and even in the field boundaries.

While inaugurating the Bamboo Technological Park in the vicinity of Guwahati, Chief Minister of Assam, Mr. Sonowal stated, “There are hundreds of MSME’s that produces incense sticks and bamboo handicraft products. Two very large paper plants are in Assam that uses bamboo as the raw material.”

The park has been equipped with the modern Common Facility Centre for producing creative and innovative bamboo products. The facilities include vacuum pressure treatment plant, bamboo stick and resin making facility, to name a few.

The cumulative efforts of private entrepreneurs, the Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion helped in establishing the Bamboo Technology Park, with the view to ensure optimum utilization of bamboo at the commercial level.

BSNL to Connect all Assam GPS through Optical Fiber in 2017-18

BSNL Office

Influx of new digital ventures or giving digital makeover to old and traditional structures, India, subtly yet swiftly is becoming part of a smart culture. The most recent sector to embrace this innovative change is India’s most venerable telecom service provider – BSNL.

With the intent to empower rural connectivity and development, optical fiber has been laid in gram panchayats of Assam by BSNL. Easy accessibility to television, internet and telephone through a single point will enable youth to be academically inclined and become literate in a manner, more direct and digital. Target of one lakh people becoming part of this electronic revolution has been targeted for 2020.

Under the probable plan, about 1500 gram panchayats shall be covered under this scheme; 70 % of the total gram panchayats in the state of Assam. Along with that multiple WiFi hotspots spanning through the optical fiber route have also been installed.

The whole arrangement is tantamount to elevation of rural conditions for education and business. Trickling down technological know-how to the lowest tier in the society is a mark of growth and development.

Telenor Shifts Myanmar Focus to Internet Services

TElENOR SHIFTS MYANMAR FOCUS ON INTERNET SERVICES

As the era of rapid telecom subscriber growth in Myanmar has ended, one of the chief operators in the country, the Norwegian telecoms company Telenor, will now focus on improving its internet services. Myanmar’s telecoms sector was liberalized in 2011 and soon after that Telenor established itself as the number 2 player in the market with 18 million subscribers. The initial phase saw tremendous growth in the telecom sector with various companies competing to get more customers. However, now that the growth phase has subsided, focus has shifted towards providing better data services. Most people in Myanmar who wanted a SIM card have already obtained it and now the companies are competing to retain existing customers rather than targeting on getting new ones who have never used a cellphone before.

In Myanmar there are no fixed line alternatives available to most people and many people don’t even own a computer. Therefore, people are jumping at the chance to be able to access the internet through their smartphones. Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber are already extremely popular in the country. Main competitors of Telenor are Qatar’s Ooredoo and Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) which has partnered with Japan’s KDDI Corp in order to improve its services. According to estimates, MPT has 21 million customers while Ooredoo has 9 million subscribers. Telenor is 3 million customers behind MPT and for in the third quarter this year,5.3 percent of its worldwide revenue came from Myanmar. Around 40 percent of this revenue came from data services while the remaining 60 percent was from voice calls and text messages.

JICA Agrees to Share its Technology to Promote Sustainable Agriculture in Mizoram

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JICA RFESEARCH CENTRE, TOKYO, JAPAN

Japanese International Cooperative Agency (JICA) has signed an agreement with Mizoram Government under which it has agreed to share its knowledge, expertise and technology to help promote sustainable agriculture in the state.  This Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been named ‘Capacity Enhancement for Sustainable Agriculture and Irrigation Development’ and it was signed on March 24, 2016. The list of the people who signed the agreement on behalf of Mizoram includes various top officials from Agriculture, Minor Irrigation, Horticulture and Soil and Water Conservation departments. Mizoram’s State Chief Secretary Mr. Lalmalsawma was also present at the occasion. Representing JICA were Mr. Satoru Fujita, its Team Leader and four other senior officials. Between 2013 and 2015, JICA conducted a development study and used its findings to formulate a master plan. This plan spans a period of 20 years and is set to begin from October, 2016. As a part of this the technical cooperation project, training programs will be conducted for both farmers and officials in Japan. All the expenses will be borne by the Japanese Government.

Vodafone Invests in 3G Network at Shillong in Meghalaya

v14-21Indian telecom company Vodafone has decided to enter India’s North East region. This huge telecom network operator Vodafone India is going to introduce 3G services In Meghalaya. In order to achieve this aim it has deployed 68 new 3G towers in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. Vodafone has already made a huge investment on this project which it hopes to recover soon by tapping into the Shillong’s telecom market and reaching out to its 2.8 lakh residents. The decision was made after Vodafone managed to bag 3G (2100 Mhz) spectrum for Assam and North East circle at auctions held in March, 2015. 

So far, Vodafone has invested Rs. 500 crore in Assam and North East (ANE) circle. The company already has 40 million subscribers in this circle and it hopes to increase that number even further by expanding its services in Meghalaya. At present, 40 percent of Vodafone’s customers are data users and as 3G services are made available many more will be attracted towards utilizing these services. The company aims promote and speed up mobile internet usage by providing easily accessible and high quality services.

Netflix Streams Into Myanmar

v14-11On January 6, 2016, Netflix launched its streaming service in 130 new countries. Netflix is the world’s largest internet television network and it has more reach than almost any other traditional broadcaster with YouTube and local new channels being the only exceptions. Myanmar is one of the countries where Netflix is available now but as the current internet speed available in this country are quite slow it might not be able to become popular just yet. High cost of internet services in Myanmar is another hindrance so people here might have to rely on DVDs to watch their favourite movies and TV shows for some more time.

The availability of Wi-Fi connections and 3G networks is a very new development in Myanmar. People here are just getting accustomed to using internet for anything more than sending e-mails. There are three main internet services operating in Myanmar- Telenor, Ooredoo and Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT). Ookla, a renowned internet metrics provider recently conducted a study which showed that none of these networks are fast enough to enable people to enjoy Netflix comfortably and at the moment all of them are quite expensive as well.

MPT is among the faster internet services here and it provides a download speed of 6.24 megabits per second while Ooredoo is much slower than even the average download speed of 6 megabits per second.

The internet service providers in Myanmar have welcomed this move from Netflix though they understand that at it will take some time before people can actually start using this service here. The average download speed of 6 megabits per second means that even 1 gigabit of data, which can be the size of a single episode of some TV series, will take 3.7 hours to download.

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Streaming over Wi-Fi networks in this country is even slower and will require frequent buffering which can be many hours to watch just one season of a TV series. As Wi-Fi networks are extremely slow people here mostly rely on   3G networks which are quite expensive.Telenor is Myanmar’s largest 3G network with around 12 million customers.The cost of services provided by this company is 6 Kyats/MB for a speed of 2 megabits per second. A 6.5 GB premium internet package provided by MPT costs 25,000 kyats.

This is way too expensive for most Myanmar citizens and though Netflix provides one month free trial, after that initial month there is $ 8 per month charge. A whole season of a TV series is easily available on DVD for a cost equivalent to around just $ 5. Therefore in present situation people will find DVD to be a much better and cheaper option than using Netflix services. Another issue is that online purchase of a Netflix package will require the use of a credit card which most people here do not have.

Myanmar is mainly a cash based society where many people have never ever had a credit card issued to their name and neither are they comfortable making such kind of transactions. This is expected to change in future but it is going to take some time and till then the chances of using Netflix services becoming a popular phenomenon are quite less. The good news is that many of Myanmar’s internet users are happy with this development. So, many of them have expressed their excitement about Netflix being available in their country over the internet. The move to go global has greatly benefitted Netflix in general and it has resulted in a sharp rise the company’s stock.

MYANMAR TO RECEIVE MODERN WEATHER SENSOR NETWORK

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Earth Networks, well known U.S. technology firm and Lucky Bird Group, an eminent Myanmar IT Company have decided to work together in order to bring a modern weather sensor network to Myanmar. Both companies want Myanmar to have a technologically advanced, nationwide weather monitoring, forecasting, and severe weather alerting system. Weather can get really severe in Myanmar at times and it often results in the loss of both life and property. The system designed by Earth Networks and Luck Bird will help the government to minimize this loss throughout Myanmar.

Myanmar is particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes and additionally cyclones, thunderstorms, and heavy rains also cause problems by causing landslides and floods. Earth Networks provides severe weather detection and alerting technology and operates a global lightning detection network. Lucky Bird Group is currently involved in installing real-time lightning detection sensors and weather stations throughout Myanmar. The data collected by this network will prove to extremely useful in developing weather modelling and analysis technology. Myanmar will gain access to critical weather monitoring, forecasting and alerting services with the help of this data interpreted through sophisticated analytical tools. In this way this network will be able to same many lives by issuing automated alerts.

This sophisticated network will make it possible to track thunderstorms, monitor precipitation and issue alerts for severe weather. Numerous weather stations and lightning sensors will be connected via the Internet and they will be capable of reporting a broad range of weather conditions. The network in Myanmar is modelled successfully deployed networks in various other countries including Brazil, China, India, Australia, Japan, and more.  Lucky Bird Group will provide resources to establish the network and will also handle its operations in Myanmar.

E-commerce is On the Rise in Myanmar


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While online shopping has become a way of life for most people all over the world, for the residents of Myanmar it’s still a new concept. Bad internet connectivity and exorbitant costs had hindered the growth of E-commerce in the past. But now as these obstacles are being removed, the people of Myanmar have started catching up with the rest of the world. As internet speeds continue to improve, many companies are entering the online retailing segment hoping to cash in on this new opportunity. However, things are not simple or easy for online stores in Myanmar at the moment.

The biggest obstacle that these stores have to face stems from the basic mindset of the consumers in this country. The people of Myanmar want to see the products with their own eyes and touch them with their own hands before making a purchase. Trusting online stores does not come easy to them. This hesitancy is understandable considering they haven’t had much exposure to the online world. However, things are expected to change gradually with time as they have in other countries and this expectation is already creating a lot of competition in the field which until recently didn’t even exist.

Zaw Gyi Mart is one of the oldest online stores in Myanmar and it has been around for a period of two years. This store offers a huge amount of products to its customers, supplies them without any extra delivery charge in the Yangon area, and provides exchange of defective products that are in warranty. The fact that this online store has only had 10,000 customers till now says a lot about how sluggish this industry has been in this part of the world. It is true that e-commerce will definitely grow in Myanmar as access to internet services spreads and more people learn how to use it but the online stores of Myanmar have to face some other challenges as well.

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One of the major problems is in the area of logistics as many of the goods sold by online stores are not stored in the country but are outsourced from other nations. This increases the turnaround time for product delivery and makes the transaction less convenient for the consumers. Additionally, it also increases the transportation costs and may make selling certain products uneconomical for the stores. Another major issue is that Myanmar is largely a cash society and not many people use plastic money here. Facilities such as credit cards and online secure payments are slowly emerging but it can be a while before their usage becomes common. E-commerce is no rocket science but it does require the users to have some basic knowledge and the people of Myanmar are still in the process of gaining and understanding that knowledge.

E-commerce industry in Myanmar might be a bit sluggish at the moment but it is certainly showing an upwards trend. Yangon Online Store makes about five sales per day and the Myanmar Online Store receives about 5000 to 10,000 monthly visitors. Myanmar’s promising economy has also attracted some foreign investors who are backing some of the E-commerce firms operating in the country. An example of this is Rocket Internet’s Myanmar vehicle marketplace Motors.com.mm which is getting a huge viewership and registering close to 160,000 visitors per month.

Motors.com.mm has also launched a mobile application which has been installed more than 35,000 times. This is indicative of the fact that Myanmar’s E-commerce industrymight still be in its early stages but it is certainly moving in the right direction. Myanmar is seen as the least developed market in Asia on certain counts but no one can contest that fact that it has a huge potential for growth. The government is doing its bit by providing internet and smartphone access to its residents and creating more job opportunities. As the job opportunities continue to rise, more and more people will get busy with their work and as a consequence they will start making use of E-commerce in order to save their valuable time.