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Overview

In recent years, Myanmar has seen an increase in economic activity and economic growth, resulting in increased jobs, higher wages, and an increased quality of life. Myanmar is at a pivotal moment—the past decade has seen Myanmar put digital technologies at the heart of national policies and plans. For example, the Myanmar Digital Economy Roadmap was released in February 2019, to centralise both current and future digital economy initiatives.

Supportive reforms liberalising the telecommunications sector in 2013, have resulted in Myanmar now being on-par with or leading the region—with 22 million Internet users (with penetration at 41% in January 2020), 68.24 million mobile connections (representing 126% of the total population in January 2020). However, given the low unique SIM penetration, there is still a lot of room for growth and particularly for rural, remote and vulnerable populations. Going further, the government aims to increase Internet access, and upgrade Internet infrastructure to allow for a comprehensive e-strategy for leapfrogging in areas such as education and governance, and increase the technical competence of the workforce.

Given such developments, Myanmar’s digital economy could be expected to continue to catch up. However, as this report will highlight, there is still significant scope for Myanmar to leapfrog and accelerate overall trade through harnessing national digitalisation efforts, and leveraging international standards. To achieve this, more investments must be made in the ICT infrastructure and in developing appropriate ICT policy frameworks. Myanmar currently has no laws or regulations on intellectual property rights, privacy, right to information or legislation on cybercrime. Although initiatives are now emerging to address these gaps, it’s crucial that Myanmar leverage international standards as they offer the nimbleness, agility, and flexibility to accelerate digital trade growth in Myanmar—rather than put in place prescriptive requirements that will be soon out of date, and are not fit-for-purpose.

Adoption of international standards has the potential to accelerate digital trade. For instance, by enabling businesses and governments to digitise using systems that can interoperate and interconnect with one another, seamless cross-border trade is facilitated. Standards, therefore, play the role that regulation has traditionally played: facilitating market access and participation, ensuring competition, reducing compliance costs, and boosting productivity.

Digital technologies can significantly lower barriers to trade, improve trade efficiencies and open access to markets, creating new trade possibilities. For Myanmar, this report estimates that—at a minimum—digital trade could increase to a total projected AUD76 billion by 2030. This suggests that the economic value of digital trade has the potential to increase 92% for Myanmar.

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