Is Burma’s internet disconnectivity deliberate? (Conclusion)-A A +A
Friday, September 6, 2013
IN 2015, Burma will be the chair of Asean.
Last June, the government awarded licenses to two foreign companies to provide telecommunication services in Burma. The two companies -- Norway’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo -- edged out 11 other telecom companies, including Singapore Telecommunications, KDDI Coporation, Digicel, Axiata, Bharti Airtel, MTN, Viettel, Orange, and Millicom International Cellular.
But IT professional Aung Bar Lay, said the entry of the two telecommunications companies is not yet a reason to celebrate.
"As long as the government will not change the policy here, it will be the same,” he said. “No matter how many players are in the market, it will be the same. It would appear that there are many choices but it will always be the same.”
Will the government give up control over the telecommunications sector?
"No,” he said. “The government will not let go."
MIDO’s Nay Phone Latt meanwhile challenges the government to allow telecommunications services to be run by independent companies. He also said that an independent commission must be created to oversee the business of telecommunications in Burma.
“Some of the military people, they are afraid of the freedom of expression,” said Nay Phone Latt. “I say there is no need to be afraid. Freedom of expression is very important in a democracy. They can also take advantage of it. They can be a player in a free society.”
Facebook equals the Net
For the moment, though, such concerns are way above the heads of many urban Burmese. At the Maha Bandoola Garden in downtown Rangoon one drizzling Saturday afternoon, lovers claim the freedom to be together—away from the crowd.
Ar Kar, an 18-year-old Physics student at the Dagon University, and his girlfriend, were among them. Asked what he thought about Internet freedom in his city, the young man appeared surprised. But speaking through an interpreter, he said, “I think things are normal here. I think there is nothing wrong here.” His girlfriend just smiled and refused to comment.
Ar Kar said he has never used the Internet to surf for information or read news. But he said he is free to use the Internet however he wants to.
“I only need to have 250 kyats (26 cents) and I can do whatever I want,” he said. Asked to elaborate on this, Ar Kar explained that he used the Internet only because of social networks and to communicate with other people. He said most of his friends use the Net this way as well.
Because he does not have phone, Ar Kar said, he goes to the Internet cafe to check on his girlfriend, or set a date with her, just as he had done earlier that rainy day.
BizNet, an Internet café in Rangoon, indeed usually teems with young Burmese around the age of Ar Kar. The default browser for all 15 computers displays Facebook.
Several years ago, one had to register to be able to use the Internet in Burma. Internet café operators also had to take photos of the users as part of the regulation imposed by the MPT. A check with BizNet showed that this policy is no longer being followed.
“Set lote par, register lote yan ma lo par (Go ahead. There is no need to register),” said the woman at the counter.
On one wall of the Internet café, though, is a prominently placed poster that reads: “Dear all customary, We are prohibit and restricted for all political website and adults site. Thanks, BizNet.”
(Jefry Tupas is one of the 2013 six journalism fellows of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa). This year's theme is Freedom of Expression Challenges to Internet Government in Southeast Asia.)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 06, 2013.