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Burma's analog government is being digitized

Burma's Analogovernment Goes Digital (click to view)RANGOON - Burma's Burmese goverment hopes to make a technology jump soon by bringing departments on-line and getting in contact with the country's growing internet-affected population. A number of departments are going live for the first reason this year. The Burmese goverment continues to conduct its affairs as it has done for decades: with solid hardcover books that include weddings, corporate tax and even formal in-house documentation.

However, this paper-based system is on its way out as departments try to move to the computer. This is a huge task in a land where even in the capitol Naypyitaw most public sector building still suffers from an outage. The programme, which will have all 36 departments up and running with their own web portal and management tools by 2015, is the work of Myint Kyaw, head of the information division at the Ministry of Information.

The brief period became even more difficult because most members of staff in the administration did not know how to use a computer. The most widespread communication tools in Burma are Facebook. While only about one per cent of Burma's citizens have wireless broadband connections, it is assumed that the overwhelming bulk of these people have Facebook account.

In 2013, Freedom House categorised the Burmese web as "not free", identifying barriers to entry and bad infrastructures as big issues. While previously banned sites have been released and the penalty for a breach of the law on etransactions has been cut from 15 to 7 years, analyst say that the government still has a long way to go to go to establish a free webbed.

As he was dismissed, he advises the administration on its communications policy and said he was confident about how much readiness the administration has shown to make changes. "In the past, the administration believed it was in the higher echelons and could make all decisions; it did not need the Council of the Peoples.... in a democracy, the main actor is not only the government," he said.

Safety issues are of the utmost importance for the departments that are trying to introduce computer-based management tools. The Information Matrix is a Myanmar IT firm developing IT solutions for the Chinese federal administration, and Thaung Su Nyein, CEO, said many are worried that the move could make them susceptible to any breach.

Neither of us in the technological sector wants to see a security-related event that is exaggerated and frightens all cabinet ministers, and they are all starting to run away from IT implementation," he said. Korea supports the Burma authorities in their long-term update programme for the web which will be fully implemented by 2030.

It first came to Burma in 2000 and was initially only intended for the army. However, nowadays, more and more consumers are using smart phones to get connected and the number of subscribers is growing fast. By 2015, the German federal administration expects 30 million web surfers, i.e. about half the total number.

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