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We often see Asia as the land of opportunity when it comes to technology. Countries such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and China have led the way in technological innovation on the continent, serving as the home to some of the world’s biggest tech companies: Samsung, Sony, Nintendo, Huawei, Acer, Lenovo, HTC, and many more. In recent years, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam have also been touted as regional tech hubs as well.

However, one nation in particular, Myanmar, has been walled off by a long-standing military junta, which ruled the country from 1962 to 2011. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the former ruling party from the 8888 Uprising in 1988 to its dissolution in 2011, presided over a dark time in the country’s history. The country has had numerous sanctions placed on it during the SPDC’s reign due to its abuse of human rights, which further pushed the country’s development behind. However, the November 8 elections, the first civilian elections since the end of military rule, could help bring the country’s technological infrastructure to the level of other Asian giants.

Myanmar’s economy, crippled by years of sanctions and lack of development, has shown some significant gains, particularly in the mobile phone industry. SIM cards in the country used to cost as much as $1,000, and as recently as 2012, only 10 percent of Myanmar’s population had a mobile phone, placing it near the bottom for mobile phone penetration alongside North Korea and Eritrea. However, in recent years, mobile phone penetration has increased to around 40 percent. One software developer in particular, U Myint Kyaw Thu, who founded Total Gameplay Studio in 2005, says that the outlook for Myanmar’s tech scene is positive.

“When the government announced new telcos were coming, we believed there would be a lot of mobile users. I thought the Myanmar market would become mature enough to support the local game industry, so we decided to be part of it and try to promote it,” he said. Total Gameplay Studio has developed two games, one involving guiding a rickshaw bicycle driver through the streets during Thingyan (Myanmar New Year) and another involving chinlone (caneball), a traditional game in Myanmar that is rumored to be the origin of the popular game of hacky sack.

Previously, the telecom market has been dominated by the state. However, the government has allowed foreign telecom companies to come and compete with the state, generating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Mobile operator Ericsson has reported that Myanmar has received five million new subscriptions in the first quarter alone (about 10 percent of Myanmar’s population of 54 million), trailing only China and India.

Myanmar has set up a tech hub, Phandeeyar (Creation Place) in its biggest city, Yangon (formerly Rangoon), near Mahabandoola Park. David Madden, the founder of Phandeeyar, has stated that demand is skyrocketing. “Basically, as fast as these telcos can roll out towers and switch on locations, they’re hitting capacity,” he said. “There’s massive pent-up demand, and as soon as people get the opportunity to connect, they do.”

Smartphones have also bottomed out at about $20, which means citizens can go straight to the Internet via mobile phone. There are also 30 million SIM cards on the Myanmar market. According to Madden, there is opportunity everywhere. “One of the things that’s really exciting about the Myanmar start-up scene is there’s so much more work to be done. There are literally opportunities everywhere, and it’s all happening at once,” he said.

Another benefactor of the economic liberalization is the transport industry. Ko Dana’s company, Myantel, launched a local version of Uber called HoHo-DeDe (Here and There) in Yangon as well. Yangon’s traffic problem is seen as one of the worst in Asia, but HoHo-DeDe could help. However, he admitted that there are still issues with the app, which works on Android devices. “If the app was in another country, it would be easy. All those little things cause big problems,” he said, saying the app has crashed due to connection problems, and that driver verification issues have prevented the app from taking off. The app, despite sparking interest, is still on hold.

Other industries that could see an explosion under the new economic policies of Myanmar include mobile payment systems. However, both Dana and Thu admit that Myanmar still has work to do. “The market is still not ready. We need to wait at least one more year before it develops and matures,” Thu said. Dana admits that the locals are over-reliant on foreign telecom companies. “Everyone expects a lot from the foreign companies, especially Telenor and Ooredoo. When we started, it was nowhere near our expectations.”

However, both remain optimistic that Myanmar can have a thriving tech industry. “I’m confident that the technology is going to get better, but as of right now it’s not very much yet. Most professionals say we are progressing very fast, but since we have high expectations, we’re thinking it’s slow progress,” Dana added. Like most developing markets, there are still challenges, but Myanmar has come a very far way and the world is starting to take notice.

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