Digital Media in Myanmar
Burma, officially known as the Republic Union of Myanmar, is situated in Southeast Asia and bordered by India, Bangladesh, China, Laos, and Thailand. Being the second largest country in Southeast Asia, Burma has a population of over 54.584 million. After independence in 1948, the country has been in constant civil wars. Between 1962 to 2010, Burma has been under military rule [junta]. During the junta, heavy censorship on media and strict regulations has resulted in an astonishing low digital literacy rate.
However, after the 2010 elections, the junta was replaced by a civilian government. Since then, the censorship on social media platforms and other media channels has gradually loosened. There are also initiatives to develop the infocomm infrastructure. Despite these initiatives, Burma is still widely viewed as a country with very little freedom of speech. The government is in constant global pressure to loosen their grip on the country. It remains to be seen if the by-elections in 2012 would produce a significant impact in the Burma digital media scene.
|Site Established||March 2012|
|Area||676,578 km square|
|Internet Penetration Rate by Household||0.22%|
- 1 Digital Literacy
- 2 Digital Media Platform
- 3 Infographics
- 4 Traditional Media
- 5 Social Media Penetrations
- 6 Digital Media Impacts
- 7 Political Influences
- 8 Case Studies
- 9 5 Essential Follows
- 10 Good Hashtags/People to Follow in Twitter
- 11 Podcast of an Interview with Zin Ko Kliang
- 12 Twitter Group Chat on 31/3/2012
- 13 References
Internet access in Burma is extremely limited. The penetration rate is as low as 0.7%, a total of 380,000 internet users. In comparison, Thailand, Burma’s closest neighbouring country, has a much higher penetration rate of 20%. Such low penetration rate is attributed to high installation cost and strict government regulations. The installation cost for an Internet fixed line averages USD$900 to USD$2300 while it costs USD$1500 to set up a wireless network. For an average household with an income of $267.50 per month, this is a significant strain and a deterrent to get Internet access. In addition, monthly subscriptions rates are at USD$40 to USD150, which may amount up to 56% of their monthly household income. Even if the families are rich enough to install an Internet connection in their homes, Internet access is only available subject to the approval of the government.
Only about 3.8% of the Burmese population has a mobile subscription. This amounts to 2.1 million Internet users. However, this is a stark contrast to Thailand as the mobile penetration rate in Thailand exceeds 100%. Once again, the poor infrastructure and high SIM card cost has prevented easy access of mobile phones to the Burmese. SIM cards cost as high as USD$20 and are only valid for a period for 30 days.
Despite the controlled Internet access at home, 1100 Internet cafes situated around Burma has spurred the grown of Internet users. By estimates, there are 500,000 actual Internet users in Burma. The Burmese like to go to Internet cafes, charged at a rate of USD$0.30 to USD$0.50 per hour, to stay connect with their friends and relatives based overseas. The number of Internet users is also expected to increase by 150% within 3 years. This is mainly spurred by the trend of increasing mobile Internet access.
Digital Media Platform
Blogs are reportedly one of the more popular SM platform in Myanmar. However, since the crackdown in 2007 which includes a number of bloggers , its influence has been diminished. There has been a number of sporadic bans throughout the years since then
A survey done in 2009 on the demographics of blogs by Myanmar Blogger Society:
Blog Platform Used
Since the 2007 crackdown, Twitter has been banned  so it's popularity did not take off as what we have seen as seen globally.
80% of all internet users in Myanmar uses Facebook. 
Burma's 'Press Scrutiny and Registration Division' vet all newspaper articles before publication. Magazines are less affected as many avoid political discussions.
Television and Radio
All broadcast media is owned by the government with exception of channel 'MM', the only private TV in Burma. Media follows a strict set of rules set by the Video Act established in 1985. Even though satellite television is illegal, many citizens watch it. CNN was removed from Burmese TV in February 2010 due to the authorities not wanting their citizens to see the aid for Haitian earthquake victims being contributed predominantly by the US.
The main radio stations are Radio Myanmar and City FM, with daily readings from the governments' "Seven Point Road to Democracy", "Twelve Political, Economic and Social Objectives" and "Three Main National Causes". In the past, the gorvernment heavily restricsts foreign music. Instead a variety of traditional Burmese classics are played. Most radio sets are tuned to government stations. Smuggled sets are popular as they provide uncensored information, though people caught listening to broadcasts would be arrested.
Due to poor living conditions, only about 10% of the poulation of Burma are impacted from radio and television.
Social Media Penetrations
Google Talk is the most prevalent platform for P2P communication. In terms of SM, Facebook can be readily accessible in Myanmar and has been the preferred platform has it incorporate multiple functions such as photo sharing, chats and weak links discovery rolled into one. Youtube has been reportedly been accessible in Mynamar, although due to infrastructure limitations, video streaming is still slow.
Digital Media Impacts
Since the last elections in 2010, Myanmar has seen opening up in liberalisation of some social media platforms such as Youtube. This may well be the trend even after the by-election that is due on 1st April 2012. The trend on the ground are geared towards as the younger generation comes to be more political aware from new media sources , Myanmar will be on track in opening up more channels in both economy and policies.
Freedom of Speech
The military government heavily restricts information flow within Burma, as well as any information going out of Burma. Every visitor have to agree to visit only certain locations, while not being permitted to some others. The movement of foreigners in and around Burma is tightly controlled by the Junta, and any news gathering is monitored. All media, pictures, and text information are screen before releasing to the world.
Internet Cafes are required to put up warning signs not to send any information regarding the political situations. If detected, offenders would be jailed. 
Case Study - Internet Enabled Revolutions
In an attempt to challenge the military dictatorship, Burma looks to challenge its leaders with the help of social media. Burmese activists have created their active Facebook Page, named “Just Do It Against Military Dictatorship”. The social networking campaign denounces the country's military dictatorship, calls for Burmese military chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe and his family to leave the country and urges the army to join with the people. It now has near 1,300 followers and boasts a mix of videos, photos and discussions.
Due to the limited access to the Internet for many people inside Burma, it remains uncertain how much further the Facebook campaign can go. But the Burmese authorities, notorious for brutal repression against any form of dissent, have apparently heightened security in Rangoon.
Case Study - Burma Global Action Network
The Burma Global Action Network  , also known as BGAN, is dedicated to promoting the struggle for justice and democracy in Burma to the world through Internet activism. They stated in their motto, “supporting the Burmese monks and civilians through internet activism by bringing solidarity and unity to the Free Burma Movement using the latest social networking and Internet technology”.
It was found by the 2007 monk-led anti-government protests and they first create the Facebook group to raise public awareness about the situation in Burma and to put pressure on governments and other stakeholders. One of its few achievements is the user-uploaded media campaign in website “Don’t Forget Burma”. (http://www.dontforgetburma.org/)
5 Essential Follows
The Light of Myanmar
The New Light of Myanmar  is a government-owned English newspaper in Burma. The military officials have strong influence in news and censorship in this channel of media. Official international news is taken from media channels like Reuters and is only published after censorship. This channel of media is often viewed as a form of propaganda by the government.
The Myanmar Monitor
@MyanmarMonitor, a journalism organization providing on-the-ground coverage of current events and issues in Myanmar. Primarily providing updates and answering inquiries through their Twitter channel.
Democratic Voice of Burma
The organization is a non-profit Burmese media organization committed to responsible journalism within Burma. Through interviews and other independent opinions, readers can have an alternative view to news in Burma
Mizzima is a online newspaper that specializes in Burma related news and multimedia. It is also a founding member of the Burma News International (BNI) that is a network of Burma’s independent media organization outside Burma. Operated by a team of 50 journalists, the organization covers news in Burma, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and China.
Created by John MacDougall, a researcher and specialist in the Southeast Asia region and internet resources. He curates a blog, Burma Monitor (http://burmamonitor.blogspot.com/) which provides the latest updates in the Burma market. Join his Facebook group and Twitter channel to have a more comprehensive coverage.
Twitter Opinion Leaders
- Myanmar Monitor
On-the-ground coverage of current events and other issues in Myanmar. Tweet us your Myanmar-related info, questions, and other inquiries.
Radio Free Asia's mission is to provide accurate and timely news and information to Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press. Washington, DC • http://www.rfa.org/english/
- Myanmar News
Myanmar (Burma) News, Myanmar Major Cities' Weather Condition, Myanmar Currency Exchange Rates, Myanmar Articles
- Zoe Daniel
@seacorro South East Asia correspondent and former Africa correspondent, ABC Australia www.facebook.com/ZoeDanielABC Bangkok • http://www.abc.net.au/news
The Democratic Voice of Burma is an independent Burmese multimedia news organisation Norway/Thailand • http://www.dvb.no
Podcast of an Interview with Zin Ko Kliang
Twitter Group Chat on 31/3/2012
Hashtag #DMBurma was used for a group chat involving people from Burma, as well as a local group of reporters. The curated twits can be found here: http://bit.ly/H8HcSv
After a very hearty and extensive group discussions, we have retrieved the following information:
- Until a few months ago, Yahoo, YouTube, CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, and exile media websites (or websites that people who were exiled access to communicate) were inaccessible.
- Facebook is the most popular social networking site in Burma.
- Gmail and Gtalk are not popular as they are heavily monitored by the government.
- Twitter was banned, and users use TweetDeck to monitor events like elections, ethnic minorities issues, etc.
- Twitter access is released recently, though still not popular, as people usually access information via Internet Cafes.
- YouTube, CNN, and BBC channels are now accessible, though not widely used due to poor internet access.
- Social media is likely to improve business in advocacy and development work, as well as for online businesses.
Subject Matter Experts and Ideas Contributors
A group of researchers situated in Burma. They use twitter expensively to broadcast their reports, and are followed extensively by the locals.
Burmese students studying in SMU. They return to Burma at least once a year.
Their group induction in their discussions show very similar ideas and understandings. Therefore, we would conclude that their sources are accurate.