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Policy Issues related to Technical Innovations in ICT Sector of Myanmar

Aung Kyaw Oo
Ph.D. Candidate
Techno-Economics, Management and Policy Program
Seoul National University

I. Abstract
In this paper, “The Computer Science Development Law” (10/96) enacted in
Myanmar is studied. The law focuses on the Academic and Societal perspectives on ICT
development. But, it didn’t take into account for the technical innovation-related matters.
Different ministries have their specific leading roles for the successful implementation of
the law. The law will be an appropriate one for analyzing ICT policy-related measures for
technical innovations in Myanmar Innovation Networks. ICT sector in Myanmar is
studied encompassing human resources, economic, social and technical perspectives in
this paper.

Keywords: ICT, innovation, research and development, policy.

II. Introduction
In the late nineties, one country after another paid great attention to their ICT
Policy with respect to technical innovation for the economic development of their
countries. As it is well-accepted that ICT industry is the foundation, and sometimes a
quick way to catch up with the other economies, to go ahead to apply in our real life for
our betterment, almost every economy have been trying their best to utilize it in every
possible way. The hierarchical flow of policy regulation and implementation is as
Policy  Legislation  Regulation
The motivation for making this paper is stated in the following section. The over-
all discussion upon the Law is depicted in section (3). Next, section (4) introduces the
circumstances of the situation before the law enactment. Then, the effects of the law are
discussed in section (5). Policy issues and implications for the technical innovations in
ICT sector are presented in sections (6) and (7) respectively. Finally, conclusion and
future work of the term paper are to be seen in the last section.

III. Motivation
How the law affects on the technical innovation in ICT sector of Myanmar, based
on socio-technical perspective included in the law and the existing Innovation Networks
in Myanmar, before and after its enactment is to be studied. ICT sector in Myanmar is to
be studied encompassing human resources, economic, social and technical perspectives
highlighting policy issues.

IV. The Computer Science Development Law

In Myanmar, this law is the first of its categories in the history of legislation.
Never in the country’s history has found such kind of laws. The existing government
enacted the law on the 20th of September, 1996 as a Law Number (10/96) [2]. It is
evidently found out that the Government wants to encourage the level and standard of the
development of ICT sector in parallel with Research and Development in each and every
industry around the country.
Interesting keywords found in the law are Federation, Computer, Software,
Hardware, Network, Policy, Council and Association among others. In the law, it
includes six clarified objectives. Among those ones, the first four objectives have been
worked out well and still gaining momentum in their implementation, however, the last
two ones are found out to be unfulfilled yet and need to go much further from the existing
milestones. It will be elaborated in the later sections about those unfulfilled objectives of
the law.

V. Before the Enactment of the Law (1986-1995)

It is known that computer hardware and software play complementary role in the
advancement of ICT sector in every perspective like in industries, education, health,
national and social security and so on. In Myanmar, the practical utilization of computers

(most of them are minis and mainframes then) and related academic and government
applications were started as early as 1970’s. But, at that time the application domains and
areas were in government-driven ones. At that time, there were as many as a hundred of
mini-computers and ten mainframes. With those infrastructures, Universities’ Computer
Centre (UCC) mainly took responsibility for technical matters and conducted post-
graduate diploma and Master’s courses in Computer Science courses in affiliation with
the University of Yangon. There was no ICT-related industry or private academic
institutions for twenty years of computer utilization from 1970s to 1990. One reason for
that may be because the country itself was an agro-based socialist economy and no
specific interrelation or correlation for the potential utilization of computer and computer
science with the development and growth of the national economy was proposed and
make known to the government. Only in 1986, the government established the Institute of
Computer Science and Technology (now—University of Computer Studies, Yangon)
after realizing the essentialities of the Computer Science and Technology for shaping the
country to be in a global village and catching up with the countries around the world in
every sense.
That is to say, no policy nor law nor regulation concerned with ICT was visibly
imposed during that period.
Interestingly enough, ICT-related industries came into existence around 1990.
Actually, a handful of private companies in ICT-related fields came into the business
circle. At that time, their businesses could be classified as follows;--
(1) Computer Hardware repairing (services/training),
(2) Computer application training,
(3) Software writing practices (training),
(4) Selling Computer and Peripherals, and
(5) Preparatory training for Certification courses (e.g. Microsoft, Cisco,
Sun, etc…) among others.
It was evident that no special attention was initially given to the technical
innovation related to ICT in Myanmar. It was found out that the Private sector went far
ahead of the Government policy measures in ICT sector. The growth of
telecommunications sector can be seen as follows.

VI. After the Enactment of the Law (1996-2005)
A new era in Myanmar ICT sector was launched only after the enactment of the
Computer Science Development Law in 1996. Although most of the objectives in the law
are successfully implemented, the last two are still remained to be fulfilled. Those two
are—“to cause extensively development in the use of computer science in the respective
field of work” and “to supervise the import and export of computer software or
As soon as the law was enacted, Myanmar Computer Federation (MCF) and three
level-two associations were organized, according to the law, under it in 1998. All those
bodies are NGOs. By the law, government academic institutions and research laboratories
has nothing to do for it for the development of technical innovations in ICT sector. The
government built Myanmar Information and Communication Technology Park (MICT
Park) (now renamed as Myanmar InfoTech) in the capital Yangon in 2000. Another one
of this park called Yadanabon ICT Park was set up in Mandalay, situated in the middle of
the country and some (380) miles north of Yangon, in 2001. Those two ICT parks have
been taking the leading role for the technical innovations in ICT sector in Myanmar as
NGOs in cooperation with the respective ministries. The activities in the Parks include
software development, human resource development, national level projects, data-
processing services and consultancy services.

Under the management, cooperation and coordination with those two main NGOs,
Yangon MICT and Yadanabon ICT Parks, many private entrepreneurs and IT
professionals started their IT-related businesses systematically under the same roof. As
the government of Myanmar well realized the role of ICT industry not only for the
technical innovations but for the economic development of the country, it has been giving
continuous encouragement to the persons concerned and ICT-related companies in those
two innovation-oriented ICT networks. Myanmar’s GDP based on PPP per capita GDP is
as follows. It can easily be seen that percent change in GDP has increased year by year
visibly more stable than ever after the introduction of the Law in 1996. The yearly GDPs
are highest in the year 2000 (13.9%) and 2001(11.7%) during which the aforesaid ICT
Parks were established [6].

GDP based on PPP
per capita GDP
Year US dollars | Units percent change
1980 384.36
1981 428.71 11.5%
1982 481.60 12.3%
1983 514.00 6.7%
1984 547.29 6.5%
1985 569.08 4.0%
1986 563.33 -1.0%
1987 545.46 -3.2%
1988 490.37 -10.1%
1989 518.09 5.7%
1990 542.95 4.8%
1991 548.07 0.9%
1992 603.51 10.1%
1993 641.96 6.4%
1994 687.49 7.1%
1995 738.38 7.4%
1996 786.26 6.5%
1997 830.14 5.6%
1998 871.84 5.0%
1999 943.46 8.2%
2000 1074.23 13.9%
2001 1199.88 11.7%

2002 1314.90 9.6%
2003 1312.29 -0.2%
2004 1363.76 3.9%
2005 1417.01 3.9%
2006 1459.72 3.0%

In addition to two Universities of Computer Studies plus three Technological

Universities, there are more than (151) colleges and universities in Myanmar [10]; all of
them have ICT departments and offer diplomas or degrees in ICT education. These
institutions produce 3,000 students per year; the Government has a target of reaching
25,000 per year by 2010 [5]. In one of the panel discussions upon ICT sector in Myanmar
it was stated as follows;--
– Duopoly in communication sector, no independent telecom regulators
– Restricted market, foreign investment not allowed
– Interconnection / interoperability standards not open
– Not a ITA signatory
and these points should also taken into account for the growth of ICT sector and better
economic development of the country as well [8]. There are very few amounts of foreign
firms in ICT sectors in Myanmar. Worth to mention are those from Singapore, Malaysia
and Thailand [12].

VII. Policy Issues for Technical Innovations

First of all, it is required to see how technical innovations are related to other
factors in ICT sector. As it is obvious, innovation comes to where the incentives exist.
It holds true in any other fields. Currently, the technical education in Myanmar is par
with the other countries in regional perspective. Telecommunications infrastructure is
somewhat reliable and dependable to support the ICT sector in Myanmar. Almost all of
the tertiary-level students have working knowledge of English since medium of learning
is through English in that level. Approximately (15,000) ICT-related engineers are
graduated annually from (53) state-run Computer and Technological Universities and
Colleges [3]. But, what lacking in the country now is that there is no direct (or) indirect
relationship between any academic institutions and ICT businesses. Again, ICT-
related job opportunities are rare in the country. In addition, the income drawn from

ICT-related job is not that much attractive compared with those of the others (income
inefficiency). Up till now, no visible and specific technical innovation is out from those
two Parks although some measurable contributions were achieved in Natural language
Processing projects for mother language, Myanmar. As it was told before, Computer
Science has not been applied in any every applicable sector and location although the law
said so. Currently, sending short message (SMS) functionality on GSM-based mobile
phone in mother language is successfully tested.

The three affiliates of MCF -- the Myanmar Computer Scientists Association,

Myanmar Computer Industry Association and Myanmar Computer Enthusiasts
Association, have been working hand in hand with the government for the growth of ICT
sector in Myanmar in every possible way [9]. In order to obtain better results, these kinds
of associations should continually be formed in the remaining cities and regions in the

In addition, the tasks carrying out by MCF with the respective ministries for the
formulation and implementation of e-government are as follows;--

•Smart Card(June 2002)

2000 smart cards for officials of Ministry of Defense.
•e-Passport(August 2002)
5000 passport in its initial phase
•Smart Schools(October 2002)
Collaborated with the MDC (Malaysia)
•e-Visa(January 2004)
Visa application and the payment online
•Certification Authority(January 2004)
To set up the national CA, initially start with National Registration Authority
•e-Procurement (January 2004)
Tender, direct purchase, catalogue will be included.
•TEDI(Trade Electronic Data Interchange) -Ongoing

As Myanmar signed the e-ASEAN Framework Agreement at the 4th ASEAN
Informal Summit in Singapore in November 2000, it has committed to implement the
necessary steps according to the agreement. This Agreement explains the main objectives
of ICT Policy which are to;
(a) establish the ASEAN Information Infrastructure ( AII );
(b) facilitate growth of e-commerce;
(c) liberalize trade and investments in ICT;
(d) facilitate trade in ICT products and services;
(e) build capacity and an e-Society; and
(f) promote the use of ICT applications in the delivery of government
services ( e-Government).
In order to realize the above main objectives , the e-National Task
Force was formed on October 31st , 2000 in Myanmar to monitor the
implementation of the e-ASEAN Framework Agreement [11].

VIII. Policy Implications towards the Technical Innovations in ICT

Mechanisms like, for the government in order to achieve the technical innovations
throughout the IC sector;--
(1) Establishment of public multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research
(2) Internship program with IT industry for the tertiary level students,
(3) Internship ( or) exchange program with other research institutes inland
and abroad,
(4) Encouraging and setting-up special programs on IT- related fields between
academic institutions and IT businesses,
(5) Government Budget should be raised for ICT Research and Development,
(6) Providing special monetary allowance or honorary award to those who
excel in Research and Development in ICT,
and the like should be applied.

IX. Conclusion
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
(UNESCAP) noted as “Although the Government does not have an explicit ICT policy,
it has made significant initiatives to promote such production and to put ICT to
work for the growth and development of the economy” in one of its annual regional
report [5]. Another law of its kind called “Electronic Transactions Law” came into effect
in 2004. It is essential that the three pinions for the growth of ICT sectors, i.e. academic
institutions, IT businesses and public and private Research and Development facilities
need to encourage technical innovations in every perspective. Last but not least, they
ought to cooperate and coordinate so as to pluck the multilateral benefits not only among
them but for the entire population in the country and the humanity as a whole.

(7) , Vol. 27, February 2004. (Appendix-A)
(8) Tin Win Aung; Myanmar Computer Federation; “The Present ICT Data
Collection and Measuring System in Myanmar”; ASEAN Workshop on
Measurement of Digital Economy.
(9) Nyi Nyi Aung and Khin Hninn Phyu ;” Government nears completion of cyber
laws”, says Prime Minister; Vol.12, No.232, 2005.
(10) Pyke Tin, Dr.; “Current Status of e-education and e-learning in Myanmar “.
(11) Khin Mg Oo; “The Specific Action Plan based from the WSIS Geneva
Declaration and Plan of Action of MYANMAR”.

(12) THEIN, DR. KYAW; Second Asian Forum for International Technology – 2nd
AFIT October 2-3, 2003, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; “IT Policy – Human
Resource Development --A Country Report”.


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