Myanmar’s Digital Transformation During COVID-19

Srimayee Sen Sarma

September 20, 2020

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in the world. The global economy is in turmoil and recovery from this situation seems a slow affair at the moment. However, the world has also woken up with newfound respect for technology during this pandemic.

As remote working and contact-less transactions become the new normal, countries across the world are embracing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain to find business solutions as well as fight this pandemic while keeping the economy moving.

Myanmar too is adjusting to this new normal by catching up with digital technology. The country has been a late bloomer when it comes to tech economy, owing to being under autocratic military junta rule for years.

Only starting to evolve digitally around 2010, this late adaptation had actually proven to be beneficial for Myanmar in certain ways. The main one being the fact that the barriers were much lesser than the 90s when most nations were entering the digital marketplace. For instance, the digital infrastructure was already in much enhanced and in place.

Within this last decade Myanmar has come a long way. In fact, according to the US International Trade Administration, the mobile phone connectivity of Myanmar grew from less than 10% to a whopping 95% in just the last six years.

And now, COVID-19 is further changing the digital landscape of the country. From being traditionally a mobile-oriented market, Myanmar is now encompassing other digital advancements such as home broadband and fintech services to combat the present scenario.

Myanmar as an emerging IT market 

Businesses in Myanmar, like everywhere else around the world, have been forced to consider remote working. This sudden necessity has spiked the demand for home-based broadband connections within the country. E-commerce platforms and digital transactions have seen a sudden increase in popularity too.

Already Ascent Capital Partners, which is Myanmar-focused Singapore-based, have committed to investing USD26 million to local internet service provider Frontiir for expanding its services throughout the country.

There has also been an upswing of fintech companies appearing to meet the demand of online cashless transactions. These include OK Dollar, which is an e-wallet, Onepay, the country’s first interbank digital payment system and Wave Money, a money transferring agency.

While it may seem difficult to make a country that has a very inefficient financial sector adapt to fintech services, it might just be a blessing in disguise.

The traditional banking system itself needs to remodel around fintech, so it can sometimes prove more difficult to overturn the entire system and make it tech-savvy.

Not to mention that people need to unlearn the traditional systems and relearn digital banking. People of Myanmar can leap over the traditional system to directly get accustomed to fintech. It is possible, isn’t it?

Growth during adversity

Myanmar was experiencing a strong economic expansion during early this year just before the pandemic stroked, which will possibly help the country tide over a recession that is in the future of so many other nations.

While all sectors have been affected adversely by COVID-19, information and communications technology have seen a surge. Hopefully, this will see the country moving leaps and bounds towards a digital transformation that is on par with other nations.

Sources: Oxford Business Group, Eleven Media Group, World Bank, TheStar.

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About the author
Srimayee Sen Sarma

Contributing Author

Srimayee has over 10 years of experience in creating content. Driven by her passion for writing, She has had her articles published with a byline in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and websites. Her other passions include reading, gardening and traveling.

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