How is Covid-19 transforming Myanmar’s digital economy? (Oxford Business Group)

Covid-19 has shaken up the development of the digital economy in Myanmar, with the pandemic leading to a rise in demand for home broadband in this traditionally mobile-first market.

As various containment measures were imposed, companies located in the main business hubs scrambled to ensure that employees were able to work remotely.

“Household broadband demand increased because businesses were afraid that their workers would not be connected. We have very good mobile coverage in Myanmar, but this system is not designed for working from home for 10 hours per day,” Shane Thu Aung, co-founder and chairman of the Yangon-based Global Technology Group – which includes high-speed broadband service 5BB – told OBG.

In addition to simply improving internet connectivity in the home, virus-related disruptions have also seen companies look to different products to enable a smooth transition for those working remotely.

In particular, cloud services are being utilised to help cope with spikes in data demand.

“Almost all companies are now using video conferencing tools, and they have also explored cloud services so they can access their work systems from home,” Aung said. “They need to connect through the cloud due to heavy user traffic. Most government and private sector applications are also going over to the cloud.”

Aside from a shift towards home broadband in a country that has traditionally focused on developing strong mobile internet connectivity, businesses have also sought to adapt to increased demand for digital payments – further accelerating the demand for internet services.

In order to avoid cash transactions, a number of restaurants and shops have pivoted towards e-commerce platforms.

These shifts in consumer demand and behaviour have led to fresh investment in the sector, with Singapore-registered, Myanmar-focused Ascent Capital Partners committing $26m to local internet service provider Frontiir.

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Oxford Business Group

30 June 2020

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