Google's Schmidt to visit Myanmar

Google chair Eric Schmidt (Picture: AP)
Google chair Eric Schmidt (Picture: AP)
Yangon - Google executive chairperson Eric Schmidt plans to go to Myanmar next week, the first high-profile tech company executive to visit after reforms that prompted Western nations to ease sanctions following decades of military dictatorship.

Since Myanmar's military stepped aside and a quasi-civilian government was installed in 2011, setting off a wave of political and economic reforms, the country has enjoyed a surge of interest from overseas businesses.

The former Burma is the last virgin territory for businesses in Asia, with untapped markets including the telecoms sector: Mobile penetration in the country of 60 million is estimated to be a meagre five to 10%.

The country's planned modernisation of telecoms infrastructure and expected boom in mobile phone usage will pave the way for the entry of companies such as Google, which could profit greatly through sales of cheap smartphones built around its Android platform.

"Eric [Schmidt] is visiting several countries in Asia to connect with local partners and Googlers who are working to improve the lives of many millions of people across the region by helping them get online and access the world's information for the first time in the next few years," Google said in a statement.

His trip will also take in India.

The Myanmar trip will be Schmidt's second visit this year to a country off the beaten track. In January he went to North Korea, saying it was a personal trip to talk about a free and open internet.

Schmidt is due to give a speech at the Myanmar Information and Communication Technology Park in Yangon on 22 March, before making his way to the capital, Naypyitaw, to meet senior government officials, said Zaw Min Oo, secretary general of the Myanmar Computer Society.

"There will be an audience of about 400, comprising entrepreneurs, executive committee members of the computer association and young leaders," Zaw Min Oo told Reuters, referring to the speech.

US issues licence for Myanmar banks

In February the US Treasury Department issued a general licence for four of Myanmar's biggest banks, two of which are owned by tycoons associated with the former junta, before a visit by 50 US executives that month to explore opportunities.

The delegation, led by the US Agency for International Development (Usaid) and including Cisco, Google , Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Microsoft , visited Myanmar to look into projects to boost access to the internet, strengthen transparent government and expand digital literacy, according to a Usaid statement.

Many leading firms in Myanmar are still largely controlled by businessmen subject to sanctions, but Western companies are starting to move in after the implementation of a new foreign investment law.

Myanmar is offering two operating licences for companies to build new telecoms infrastructure.

MTN Group, Africa's largest mobile phone company, which is bidding for a licence, has said around 90 companies have expressed interest.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
When planning for the Black Friday sales do you:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Save, research and plan ahead, preparing to make the most of it?
8% - 864 votes
Wait and see what looks like a good deal on the day?
14% - 1635 votes
Have no interest in spending more money this year?
78% - 8887 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
15.35
(-0.02)
ZAR/GBP
20.49
(+0.04)
ZAR/EUR
18.20
(+0.08)
ZAR/AUD
11.25
(-0.25)
ZAR/JPY
0.15
(+0.05)
Gold
1829.74
(-0.34)
Silver
23.43
(-0.30)
Platinum
935.00
(+0.92)
Brent Crude
45.51
(+2.15)
Palladium
2328.01
(-0.04)
All Share
57147.31
(+0.94)
Top 40
52478.55
(+1.08)
Financial 15
11337.90
(+0.62)
Industrial 25
79917.53
(+1.49)
Resource 10
51771.17
(+0.65)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo