Myanmar is still considered a developing nation with a GDP of $US67.43 billion, but with a GDP per capita growth of 7-8%, there is tangible progress being made. The country is abundant in natural resources such as oil, gas and mining and these are the sectors that attract the largest amount of foreign direct investment. Additionally, Myanmar is advantageously located – it is connected to China, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Laos giving it access to a market of approximately 3 billion people.
A report released by the British Chamber of Commerce highlights how Myanmar is a highly cash-based economy. Less than 20% of the population have access to any formalised financial service with many businesses managing their daily finances on a pure cash basis.
With this being said, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the Burmese economy can reach $200 billion by 2030, creating more than 10 million service-related jobs in the process. Currently, employment is dominated by the agricultural sector and the government is looking to shift away from this. The Institute concludes that the silver lining to this early stage of development is the country’s “greenfield advantage” – the opportunity exists to build a “fit for purpose economy” to suit the modern age.
The rate of development of Myanmar’s technology scene goes far beyond the 6 years it has had to achieve it. This would not have been possible without the assistance of external organisations. International telecoms Ooreedo and Telenor entered Myanmar in 2014 and this has remarkably increased accessibility to phones and access plans. It is hard to believe that previously, mobile SIM cards cost US$200 each.
Multinational tech giant Microsoft has also been working alongside the Myanmar Computer Company to up-skill Burmese people with relevant and practical skills outside traditional industries. They are currently working to help 100,000 people to develop IT-related skills.
Myanmar is also gaining traction with investors. One of the first Myanmar companies to trade on the Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX) was First Myanmar Investment. Shares of the Myanmar conglomerate leapt by 19% within its first few days of trading.
However, this same speed of progress will soon be cut short unless challenges pertaining to infrastructure and education are addressed. Currently, the internet infrastructure limits data flow within the country. Due to the lack of Internet Exchange Points, the same function is substituted with a government-controlled gateway. In this way, websites from other countries are inaccessible and vice versa.
In addition, rapid technological advancements are redundant if there is a disproportionate uptake from the public. For many, Facebook is synonymous with the internet. The average users do not have an email account, nor do they use search engines such as Google.