(File image: Google's Eric Schmidt)
Google’s search engine launched in Myanmar yesterday on the Google.com.mm domain. It’s nothing special to look at, and it’s just in English at the moment, but it’s another big step as the 21st century greets the citizens of the newly opened up and quasi-democratic Myanmar. Today, Google chairman Eric Schmidt is in the capital Yangon where, according to TheNextWeb, he gave a speech warning of the dangers for the nation’s fledgling internet:
LIVE! #Google’s Eric Schmidt in Rangoon speech: “Rule #1 - Don’t let the government control the Internet.” [Audience applauds]— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) March 22, 2013
Schmidt: Techonology empowers individuals. One mobile phone in one village can record injustices.— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) March 22, 2013
Indeed, Myanmar is likely to skip the PC era and jump straight to mobile, as has been seen in some other late-emerging Southeast Asian nations. To that end, Google has also partially opened up its Android app store, Google Play, to people with Myanmar SIM cards in their phones.
Google is one of many tech companies keen to jump into Myanmar, which has a population of 48 million. Right now, according to Radio Free Asia, only 6.7 percent of Myanmar’s population has landline and wireless internet capable subscriptions, and the mobile ownership/penetration rate is at just nine percent.
Schmidt’s tone is more strident in Myanmar than it was in North Korea, where only a select group of government officials have access to a limited national intranet. However, tourists and businesspeople heading to North Korea can now purchase mobile internet hotspots from which they can freely access the full internet.
Schmidt, who seems to have transformed into a Hillary Clinton-esque ‘Google Secretary of State’, will meet with Thein Sein, Myanmar’s president, this afternoon.
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