Digital 2011: Myanmar

In late 2011, the internet is still highly regulated in Myanmar, and access to many sites is either blocked or restricted.

Tellingly, Myanmar is one of only a handful of countries in the world that advertisers cannot target on Facebook. This list has become ever shorter in recent months, but Myanmar – along with North Korea – is still unavailable in the self-serve options, even though Yemen has recently appeared as an option.

However, the internet situation inside the country isn't quite as bleak as it might appear from the outside.

Local observers suggest that many of those who wish to access the internet often find ways to do so – mostly through the country's large network of internet cafés.

Despite the fact that the majority of these access points are regulated by the government, many Burmese still manage to create and maintain a Facebook account, and anecdotal evidence suggests that around 80% of Myanmar's internet users have an account on the world's largest social network.

However, this is still only 80% of a very small base, and while accurate figures are hard to come by, even optimistic estimates suggest that internet penetration levels are stuck around the 1% mark.

This may be due in large part to the general lack of telecommunications infrastructure in the country though. Like mobile phones, fixed line penetration also struggles to achieve 1% penetration.

This looks set to change in 2012, however, as the country's mobile phone infrastructure evolves.

Our opinion is that improved access to more advanced mobile devices will help accelerate internet adoption, although access will still be through basic feature phones.

Observers within the country predict similar trends, with suggesting the number of internet users will triple over the next couple of years.

Whether this 'digital revolution' has broader implications remains to be seen, but the future certainly looks brighter for those with an appetite for the internet.

Click here to download a free PDF of the complete Myanmar 2011 report (you may need to sign in to SlideShare first).

This article first appeared on the We Are Social blog.