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Southeast Asia, explained

Yangon internet 2012 03 06Enlarge
Participants at Barcamp Yangon, the first iteration of the global, tech-centric meet-up phenomenon to take place in Burma. Photo posted to BarcampYangon.org. (BarCampYangon.org/Screengrab)

In an article on the potential for tech geekery in Burma, The Economist drops some interesting figures on the impoverished nation's outrageous Internet access costs.

"Setting up an internet connection costs $850, and monthly packages range between $40 and $150."

Why is logging on so pricey in Burma, where almost everything else is dirt cheap?

The problem is mostly owed to a small, decrepit infrastructure -- a bigger network spreads costs thinner -- and the old regime's historical restrictions on any communications medium so big they couldn't monitor it. And even when you can log on in Burma, the speed remains excruciatingly slow.

But as the Economist notes, the success of BarCamp Yangon --Burma's first iteration of a global tech-centric meet-up phenomenon -- is heartening.

And so are its sponsors: MIT, Konica Minolta and, most remarkably, the "Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs." (Yes, that's what they still call it.)

Building decent IT infrastructure in Burma will take time. Ideally, Burma's authorities will continue clearing away the hurdles of censorship and bureaucracy so that this sector can grow.

It would be great to see tech-reliant industries -- such as call centers -- appear alongside the inevitable increase in sweatshops and mining/logging enterprises in Burma.

http://www.globalpost.com/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/yangon-internet