Myanmar will look to overcome its infrastructure shortfalls by using a cloud-based computer system to link government and public offices when it begins its extensive IT overhaul later this year.
Japan-based Daiwa Securities Group will lead the US$380-million project announced last month that aims to move Myanmar from the computing dark ages onto a level equal with some if its more tech-savvy neighbours.
“The cloud system is aimed to be linked with public offices, banking systems and other institutions so that the system can be conveniently used as ‘one-stop’ data hub for its users that is protected by the highest system security standard,” a Daiwa spokesperson said.
In government cloud computing, “hosted infrastructure appears like an internal data centre for governments, while being provided by an external source,” according to Manish Bahl, a vendor strategy analyst at market and technology research company Forrester Research, who has looked at the use of cloud models in governments across the Asia Pacific region.
Singapore has been lauded as a leader in the field of government cloud usage. Telecoms company SingTel secured a tender to create a cloud system for its government in May. Although showing positive signs, Myanmar has a long way to go before it approaches anything near the technological state of the tiny Southeast Asian nation.
The United Nations E-Government Survey for 2012, a report that assessed e-government development, ranked Myanmar 160 out of the 190 UN member countries surveyed. Myanmar had an “e-participation index” of just 0.2703, well below the 0.4877 world average.
Numerous Myanmar government agencies did not have websites until this year. Though some have been launched they remain rudimentary a symptom of the country’s larger internet issues. Only 0.03 percent of the population has broadband internet subscriptions.
In contrast, Singapore took 10th spot in the 2012 world rankings with a score of 0.8474. Asia as a whole is well represented in the rankings, with three of the world’s 20 e-leaders from the continent. South Korea ranked number one in 2010 and took the top spot again in 2012.
Daiwa’s project will hopefully reverse Myanmar’s backward slide, which has seen it fall 19 spots between 2010 and 2012, according to the report.
Daiwa believes that the cloud approach is the right one to address Myanmar’s unreliable electricity supply, which is especially problematic in the dry season when hydropower, which supplies most of the power, is limited.
“By making the most of the ‘cloud’, it becomes possible for more users to enjoy wider services with less equipment (hardware). Less equipment means less money and less power required for operation. The ‘cloud’ will be designed to be a best-fit for various local needs and conditions,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Bahl agrees that the cloud system is a good fit for Myanmar’s unique situation and could serve as starting point for even larger IT development.
“Since Myanmar has just started opening up to the world, it’s a great opportunity for the country to bypass fragmented ICT infrastructure and transition to more advanced and centralised virtual private cloud infrastructure that will help the country centralise its infrastructure while reducing costs and improving efficiency – all without compromising on security, data privacy, and control,” said Mr Bahl.
Cloud systems however are not without their detractors. Earlier this month Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak made waves in the computing industry when he openly criticised the recent shift towards cloud systems saying that he saw, “horrendous problems” in the coming years while speaking at an event in Washington.
Although Mr Wozniak did not elaborate in great detail, he cited problems that could arise with ownership and control issues as cause for his concerns.
The UN also pointed to security as one of the potential problems with the governments adopting this new technology, stating, “Among the main challenges for large-scale adoption of cloud-based government services are the integrity of service, data security and privacy, and regulatory environment in most countries around the world, which will need continued reform in governance systems and a continued focus on strengthening institutional linkages”.