The last time I visited Myanmar was before the reforms started. At that time, I had a bit of a struggle connecting to the Internet, and access was slow and intermittent at best, even in what I was told was Yangon’s finest hotel.
As I return to Myanmar this week, I had a quick look at what the current statistics say, and while they are slightly out of date, I noted that estimates of Internet penetration hover around the 1% mark.
As Myanmar enters a period of rapid development, there are challenges with infrastructure availability. This impacts many sectors and each has a potential flow-on effect. However, I believe Myanmar has a unique opportunity to be a world leader when it comes to Internet infrastructure.
Due to the very low user base (and its corresponding low level of infrastructure), Myanmar can make a significant technological leap. Instead of deploying new Internet architecture using IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4, the technical standard on which the Internet runs), it can use IPv6, the next-generation standard. IPv6 is seeing rapid uptake in the more mature Internet markets – in the last year alone, adoption has doubled.
Mobile devices are also becoming a common platform for Internet access globally, and I understand Myanmar is the same. Again, IPv6 offers the only truly scalable end-to-end solution for the mobile platform, particularly for 4G networks.
The availability of IPv4 addresses is scarce – the Asia-Pacific region has already run out of any new allocatable addresses – which means there is all the more reason for Myanmar to invest in the future, and not the past.
As ASEAN integration plans move towards the implementation phase, robust Internet infrastructure will be critical for success. Internet infrastructure for each economy will have a bearing on how systems and services can be integrated and made available across the ASEAN region – be they government services, financial services or corporate IT systems.
Each ASEAN member will have an important role to play, and I look forward to Myanmar becoming the leader when it comes to next-generation Internet infrastructure. In doing so, it will create a knock-on effect that positively contributes to, and enhances, other sectors.
Author: Rajnesh Singh is Regional Director, Asia-Pacific at the Internet Society.
Image: A Buddhist monk uses a computer at an internet café in Yangon REUTERS/Stringer