The Government oppression that throttled any thoughts of looking toward a future since the 1960s has recently alleviated from Myanmar. The country has always been firmly under an oppressive hand whether the hand belonged to the British, the Japanese or its own government. Myanmar boasts of freedom fighters like Aung San Suu Kyi and the Buddhist monks who took part in the ‘Saffron revolution’. The nation today stands on their shoulders.
With this new found “freedom” so to speak, one cannot help but wonder, is Myanmar moving toward integrating BPO services into the new economy?
Why Myanmar For Outsourcing?
The country has a total population of 55 million. The sheer numbers alone make for a substantial employee base to establish contact centers. Apart from the demographics, the country has a seriously low minimum wage slab. The Japan External Trade investigated the minimum wage of numerous countries. The base monthly wage of workers in China is $328, Philippines is $253, Vietnam is $145 and in Myanmar, it is $53. This may be advantageous to the outsourcing companies looking to create profits through low running costs.
While the wage situation casts a positive glow, the economic scenario in the country is not conducive. Less than 1 percent of the population have access to the internet and less than 10 percent has access to a mobile phone. Internet access was made available to the public only after the year 2000. Even then the access available was heavily monitored and censored.
Given the lack of infrastructure and conducive economic conditions, it is very hard for Myanmar to catch up to its Asian neighbors. The nation, however has far from resigned. The country is taking steps to ensure exposure to global companies. Policy changes like the Foreign investment law that protects the investment against nationalization, protects real estate investments and ensures profit and capital repatriation. With these changes in place it is not surprising that companies like Google are making their presence felt in Myanmar.
The Google Advantage In Myanmar
Google chairman Erin Schmidt visited Myanmar in March and was quoted as saying, “The government has to make it possible for the private sector to build the telecommunications infrastructure. If we do that right, within a few years the most profitable businesses within Burma will be the telecommunications companies.” He was of the opinion that uncensored internet coupled with a government that does not interfere will lead to a free flow of knowledge and information that is capital for the entry of information technology companies.
The government is keen on bringing the economy up to the world standards. President Thein Sein announced the Government’s intention of creating an 80 percent cellphone ownership by the year 2015. Also the Government is currently calling for tender notices to create an expanded mobile phone license base.
The Cisco and USAID Promise To Myanmar
Cisco systems has announced a commitment to develop Myanmar’s human capacity with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Cisco also announced that this goal will be accomplished through the establishment of two networking academies located at the University of Computer Studies in Yangon and one in the University of Computer Studies in Mandalay.
Chris Milligan, mission director for USAID/ Myanmar was quoted as saying, “Technology is a powerful tool to advance Myanmar’s development while contributing to sustainable and inclusive economic growth. This collaboration with Cisco brings innovative technology and education to build on the strengths and capacity of the country. The initiative will provide ICT skills training and increase the number of job-ready graduates for the country’s emerging ICT sector.”
Although the country is a long ways away from establishing base as a viable BPO destination, Myanmar has taken the right first steps into the domain. While the foundation is being laid, the country has set its sights on a bright future that is paved with outsourcing and IT companies. While the future cannot be accurately predicted in any field of vision, Myanmar has taken every precaution. The country will definitely be one to watch out for in the future.