Google’s globe-trotting Executive Eric Schmidt lands in Burma
Friday 22 March 2013
Google’s globe-trotting Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt became the latest high-profile figure to endorse reforms in Burma on Friday as he touched down in Rangoon with the promise that the internet would transform the country.
Following a controversial trip to North Korea two months ago, Schmidt told IT entrepreneurs and students that the internet would mean newly won freedoms in Burma could not be reversed following half a century of military rule.
“I believe something extraordinary is going to happen in Myanmar [also known as Burma],” he said, speaking at an IT park near Rangoon’s university. “Your government has made an incredibly important political decision.”
Just a few years ago, Gmail was blocked in Burma and Google searches were heavily censored by filtering software. But following a sham general election at the end of 2010, the military has given itself safeguards in a new parliamentary system and the confidence to move away from day-to-day politics.
A year ago, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi won a landmark election and became a member of parliament paving the way for the removal of Western sanctions which barred the likes of Google from doing business here.
During his Friday speech, Schmidt announced a host of new Burma initiatives including a new local-language Google subdomain, the unblocking of Android Play apps as sanctions are eased and in the longer term, Google maps.
“For now, [Google’s] highest priority is getting more information into the country,” he said ahead of a meeting with President Thein Sein.
In the short time, Burma’s biggest challenge is to develop a dilapidated and woefully insufficient telecommunications infrastructure, said the Google chief.
Internet users in this country of 50 million-plus people are believed to number just a quarter of a million, while there are less than six million mobile subscribers, making Burma among the least connected nations in Asia.
The government has opened bidding for two new telecoms licenses as it aims to raise mobile phone ownership by more than eight-fold in just three years. But critics say it has failed to introduce legislation to protect what would be multi-billion-pound investments.
“The government has to make it possible for the private sector to build telecommunications infrastructure,” said Schmidt.
- 1 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 2 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News after accusing Kay Burley of Islamaphobia
Liam Gallagher brands Kanye West 'utter s**t' during BRIT Awards performance
Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
Mohammed Emwazi: Family of man named as 'Jihadi John' described by neighbours as a 'normal Muslim family'
Mohammed Emwazi: Nine things we now know about man named as Isis militant 'Jihadi John'
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...
£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...