Change to Unicode expected to boost e-government plan (Myanmar Times)

An example of a Wikipedia article in Myanmar language. At left is the text rendered incorrectly on a Zawgyi phone, while at right is the correct text on a Unicode-supported phone.
Photo: Thant Sin/Global Voices/The Myanmar Times

Myanmar lags behind its neighbours in implementing an e-government system because of delays in adopting the Unicode system, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said Tuesday.

“The reason for the delays is that the online application system is weak and people lack skills and knowledge. This has delayed the transition to Unicode by the entire nation,” she said at a ceremony to launch Myanmar’s migration to Unicode in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday.

The transition to Unicode, an international encoding standard for use with different languages and scripts, is an important part of the E-Government Master Plan. Myanmar was ranked 157th in the e-government development index in 2018, a 12-point increase from 169th in 2016.

“We have risen in rank from 2016 to 2018 because we have installed fibre cables, increased the number of mobile stations by 15,000, and have more than 50 million mobile phone users. As the telecommunications sector has developed, we have risen in rank,” she said.

U Than Zin Maung, minister of Transport and Communications, urged those who haven’t started using Unicode to make the switch now.

“Our e-government system will develop only if people cooperate by using the Unicode font. Due to this language barrier, our country has been left behind by the rest of the world. I won’t say much about other things, but I really want to urge people to cooperate with us in this case. Let’s move forward by using the Unicode font,” he said.

Breaking the language barrier

The main benefits of Unicode are that it is an international character standard that is compatible with the Myanmar writing system. The use of Unicode will definitely break the language barrier, he said. “If we keep using the Zawgyi font, there will be no space for ethnic languages because it has too many unnecessary code points,” he said. Although people still find it easier to use Zawgyi, Unicode is an international character standard that will give users access to applications that only support Unicode.

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Myanmar Times

3 October 2019

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