The ability to develop Myanmar’s woeful telecommunications sector rests on the country’s youth, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt said on March 22.
Speaking to an audience comprising mostly students at Myanmar Information and Communication Technology (MICT) Park, Mr Schmidt said that “young people and technology equals prosperity”.
“You have the young people, technology is coming.”
Google plans to roll out improved applications for local searches and mapping, and a new translation application, Mr Schmidt said.
The easing of international sanctions is expected to soon allow for the operation of the Google Play Store and Google Wallet within the country on Android phones.
Also, the company will launch google.com.mm – a search engine portal with native Myanmar-language support – in the next few weeks, he added.
But Google will just lay the technical underpinnings for telecommunications development; technical innovation will come from Myanmar’s youth, Mr Schmidt said.
“Students will take care of everything else. They’ll build the content and they’ll build the apps,” he said.
Mr Schmidt said that further success is contingent on building up the technical literacy of children.
“We need to get educational material ready for smart phones and tablets,” he said.
“You have to start young and get the curiousity of the children.”
Now, only 1 percent of Myanmar’s population accesses the internet. It is largely utilised in English and by the elite and some students, Mr Schmidt said. Only about 9pc have mobile phone access, and most users are concentrated in urban Yangon.
But Google maintains that if the government does not attempt to regulate the telecommunications sector, and allow private competition, it will boom – perhaps meeting President U Thein Sein’s goal of reaching an 80pc country-wide mobile penetration by 2015.
“I believe something extraordinary in Myanmar is going to happen now. I’m convinced you’re all in for the ride of your life right now,” Mr Schmidt said.
Mr Schmidt left Yangon to meet with President U Thein Sien in Nay Pyi Taw. He arrived in Yangon from a visit to India, where he warned the country on March 21 of not keeping up with new technology and innovation after such a long period of success in the IT sector.
Founded in 2001, MICT Park accommodates 50 locally-based IT companies. The event was hosted by the Myanmar Computer Federation.