Thursday, August 17, 2017

Facebook racks up 10m Myanmar users

The world’s most popular social network, Facebook, has made millions of new “friends” in Myanmar over the last few years. In that time, the site has played the part of nationwide news outlet, emergency relief coordinator and community water cooler – but it has also provided a backdrop for privacy invasion and cyber bullying.

Facebook users log on in The Myanmar Times office. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar TimesFacebook users log on in The Myanmar Times office. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar Times

The site hosts a multitude of personal information, yet users may not know much about Facebook’s presence in Myanmar, as the site does not make its Myanmar user statistics public.

With data from Yangon-based Amara Digital Marketing Agency, which the company draws from Facebook’s business manager, The Myanmar Times got to know the platform better.

Click image to expandClick image to expand

One in five on Facebook

By mid-May, Myanmar had racked up more than 9.7 million monthly active users – meaning about 19 percent of the country is active on Facebook, according to data from Amara Digital Marketing Agency.

There are perhaps three or four times more Myanmar profiles on the website, but some accounts are inactive or locked, said the marketing agency’s head of operations Ma Chan Myae Khine.

The number of users has doubled in less than a year, she said, as the site counted 4.7 million monthly active users as of mid-July 2015.

Urban sprawl

Nearly nine out of 10 users access Facebook from Myanmar’s two main cities, Yangon and Mandalay, and their surrounding areas.

But in an upset Ma Chan Myae Khine finds hard to explain, Mandalay has eclipsed the country’s commercial capital, Yangon, when it comes to Facebook users. Of the total 9.7 million monthly active users, about 41pc are within a 40-kilometre radius of Yangon compared to 47pc around the northern city.

“It used to be that Yangon [had] the [biggest] digital population, but Mandalay bypassed it within the last month,” said Ma Chan Myae Khine. “I have not found the reason yet.”

Boys’ club

Men outnumber women on Facebook almost two-to-one, the data showed. While more than 6.2 million Myanmar men were on the site, less than 3.5 million women had joined up.

In Myanmar, despite making up the greater part of the population, women are almost 30 percent less likely to have a mobile phone than men, as previously reported by The Myanmar Times.

Mostly mobile

Ma Chan Myae Khine sees a link between increased Facebook usage and the country’s recent telecoms rollouts.

She says that, for example, Facebook users in Kayah state increase when an operator launches in a small town there.

“Nobody is using a PC” to get to Facebook, she continued. “Everyone is on [their] phone.”

Facebook: for better or worse

Ma Chan Myae Khine said that Facebook can be dangerous for users who lack digital literacy – especially those from rural areas.

“People just do not know that they are posting things in public,” she said, adding some may not be able to change their settings without knowing English.

But she also said the site can boost knowledge and income.

While Myanmar’s e-commerce landscape has yet to develop, some budding entrepreneurs have turned to Facebook to sell all kinds of things, including cows.

Recently, the platform has made an even bigger push into the Myanmar market, teaming up with mobile operator MPT to provide Free Basics – free access to a suite of mobile sites related to health, jobs and more.