We seem to be living in an accelerated age of revolutionary technological breakthroughs. Barely a day passes without the announcement of some major new development in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, digitisation or automation. Yet those who are supposed to know where it is all taking us can’t make up their minds.
Week by week, month on month, Myanmar society embraces the messy potential of its digital future. As the technological milestones disappear like furlong posts in the rear-view mirror, it is worth taking stock of what the new online realm means for Myanmar society and politics.
I want to start with a tale of dastardly doings in a lift. It occurred on one of my very first days travelling in Southeast Asia, while leaving a hostel in central Kuala Lumpur. I was proudly dressed in a floor-length skirt and loose-fitting, full-sleeved blouse.
Who profits from the oil, gas and mining industries? And how do citizens benefit from resource extraction? Myanmar has made significant progress toward addressing these questions since joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global effort to make information from the natural resource sector publicly available. The initiative is anchored in the belief that more complete information can promote accountable management of countries’ natural resources.
Across the world, populists are attracting votes with their promises to protect ordinary people from the harsh realities of globalisation. The democratic establishment, they assert, cannot be trusted to fulfill this purpose, as it is too busy protecting the wealthy – a habit that globalisation has only intensified.
The AIDS epidemic has defined the global health agenda for an entire generation. The first AIDS-related deaths were diagnosed 35 years ago and HIV rapidly became a global crisis. The epidemic threatened all countries and had the power to destabilise the most vulnerable. By 2000, AIDS had wiped out decades of development gains.
It is a strangely difficult task for any head of any government to gain respect, no matter whether they achieve high office by the ballot box or the barrel of a gun. In that latter, rather unsavoury, category one might also have put forward the name of Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, and until very recently few people, even in the Thai establishment, would have disagreed.
The rapid growth of Asia has often attracted praise, including the sensational moniker “economic miracle”. And the numbers seem to indicate the truth in this: Asia grew at an average of 6 percent per year between 1990 and 2015, based on data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The news that Ma Ba Tha is opening a private high school on the outskirts of Yangon somewhat troubles me. Monks getting closely involved in the education system to build children’s morals and their devotion to be Buddhists, in my opinion, feels too much like pushing an agenda of protecting “race and religion”.