Google’s Schmidt asserts internet freedom in Myanmar

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Myanmar internet monkAmidst criticism of Myanmar’s recently adopted investment law, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt remains optimistic about the potential of the country’s telecommunications sector.

As reported by The Irrawaddy, the first US technology executive to visit Myanmar spoke to young entrepreneurs and students in Yangon earlier in March about the importance of keeping government regulation out of the internet, and the ability of enhanced communication to empower individuals.

By Ju Li Khing

On March 21, 2013, Google launched www.google.com.mm, a homepage for Myanmar. Along with the new site, Schmidt will advise the country’s officials about internet openness and how the company can partner with Myanmar. According to Amy Kunrojpanya, Google’s head of communications and public affairs Indochina, the trip was meant to listen and learn; no investment decisions have been reported yet.

Thein Sein, president of Myanmar, has overseen rapid political and economic transformation since he took office in March 2011. The country has been attracting international attention with its increasing financial stability and economic openness.

Already, changes are underway in official attitudes towards Internet freedom. Even though a 2012 report by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR cited an Internet penetration rate of 0.74 per cent, the country has allowed more access to previously-blocked websites. Despite slow connection speeds, a technician at a Yangon Internet café said that almost all websites are freely available, and “even government officials use Gmail.”

While police no longer enforce the ban on external flash drives, restrictions like the Electronic Transaction Law are still in place, making it punishable by up to 15 years of prison to use Internet or digital technology to carry out or support anti-government activities.

Schmidt acknowledged that enhanced connectedness will open up space for expression, some of which will be critical.  However, he stressed that “whatever you do, you should not censor it.”

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Amidst criticism of Myanmar’s recently adopted investment law, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt remains optimistic about the potential of the country’s telecommunications sector.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Myanmar internet monkAmidst criticism of Myanmar’s recently adopted investment law, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt remains optimistic about the potential of the country’s telecommunications sector.

As reported by The Irrawaddy, the first US technology executive to visit Myanmar spoke to young entrepreneurs and students in Yangon earlier in March about the importance of keeping government regulation out of the internet, and the ability of enhanced communication to empower individuals.

By Ju Li Khing

On March 21, 2013, Google launched www.google.com.mm, a homepage for Myanmar. Along with the new site, Schmidt will advise the country’s officials about internet openness and how the company can partner with Myanmar. According to Amy Kunrojpanya, Google’s head of communications and public affairs Indochina, the trip was meant to listen and learn; no investment decisions have been reported yet.

Thein Sein, president of Myanmar, has overseen rapid political and economic transformation since he took office in March 2011. The country has been attracting international attention with its increasing financial stability and economic openness.

Already, changes are underway in official attitudes towards Internet freedom. Even though a 2012 report by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR cited an Internet penetration rate of 0.74 per cent, the country has allowed more access to previously-blocked websites. Despite slow connection speeds, a technician at a Yangon Internet café said that almost all websites are freely available, and “even government officials use Gmail.”

While police no longer enforce the ban on external flash drives, restrictions like the Electronic Transaction Law are still in place, making it punishable by up to 15 years of prison to use Internet or digital technology to carry out or support anti-government activities.

Schmidt acknowledged that enhanced connectedness will open up space for expression, some of which will be critical.  However, he stressed that “whatever you do, you should not censor it.”

 

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