March 20, 2017

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ICT for Development

  • Kyaw Myaing
  • March is the last month of the financial year and very soon we will be starting a new year. It is thus an opportune time to look back how much the new NLD-led government has accomplished during its one year in office.
    Taking the reins of government after years of rule by military rule was not going to be an easy task. When it took power in April 2016, the new government was faced with many challenges and opportunities. However on the plus side, the new government led by NLD had an overwhelming majority in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. If we look at the opportunities, the new government has the tremendous support of the people.
    Let us look at the challenges. After years of military rule the country was beset with many problems and one of the biggest challenges was to boost the morale of the people and to instill confidence and hope.
    The most critical and sensitive problem that loomed overhead like a dark cloud was the problem of the long-standing armed conflicts that had continued since the country gained Independence in 1948. In order to solve this problem, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi reformed the NPC – National Peace Centre and renamed it the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre with a special emphasis on the word “reconciliation”.
    Then how does ICT fit into this scenario. ICT means Information and Communication Technologies. In UN circles, especially at the UNDP – United Nations Development Programme headquarters, ICT for Development is a phrase widely used by development professionals. It means how to use information and communication technologies for development purposes.
    Leaving aside the natural resources that Myanmar is endowed with, it is the opinion of the writer that ICT as a tool can be used to uplift the morale of the people and to prepare them for the long and arduous journey towards our goal of a modern, developed Democratic Federal Union. The people are the country’s most valuable asset and for democracy to be sustainable we need an educated citizenry. Beginning with the administration of President U Thein Sein in 2011, Myanmar has seen many reforms in the political, economic and social spheres. However, much remains to be done and nation building is a never ending task. For all citizens of Myanmar who understand the immensity of the problems in almost every sector of the economy, opportunities also come with challenges.
    In my opinion, one of the biggest opportunities that we have is the fact that Internet access is getting much better and communication networks are expanding day by day. Furthermore, smart phones and SIM cards have become more affordable for ordinary citizens. This in itself presents us with a tremendous opportunity to mobilize and guide our people towards our national goals, the biggest of which is to achieve internal peace.
    One of the simplest ways to use ICT for Development is to encourage the establishment of Knowledge Centers all over the country. To set up such a center, the most important ingredient is the “team”. What we need is a group of highly motivated young people who are willing to volunteer their time to set up a KC or Knowledge Center. They would of course need encouragement and support from NGO’s and community leaders.
    It is true that the current government and many NGOs and private sector companies have been working hard to set up libraries in urban and rural areas. However, we need to take these efforts a step further and onto the next stage.
    Now that all government ministries have their official websites and more and more Myanmar citizens are able to use smart phones, we may say that Myanmar is now poised to move onto the next stage of development. Therefore, let us use our smart phones wisely to disseminate knowledge, promote feelings of brotherhood and peace, discuss ways and means of protecting our youths from the dangers that lurk on the Internet and make sure that we use social media networks like Facebook for entertainment, learning and knowledge sharing instead of being misled by ruthless people who use FB to spread their messages of hate and intolerance. In short, let us act smart, and be smart now that we have these smart phones in our hands. Use these ICT tools for development wisely.

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