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Burma's Government Goes Digital



From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

The government in Burma has used large books to record marriages, taxes and even official documents. But this paper-based system is going away, as government agencies move to computers. Myint Kyaw works in Burma's Ministry of Information. He is responsible for bringing all 36 government ministries online by 2015. Under the plan, each ministry will have its own web-portal and computer software programs.

Myint Kyaw says social networks will make it easier for government officials to connect with the public. Facebook is the most widely used tool for communicating online in Burma. Internet service came to Burma in 2000. Service expanded slowly and was too costly for most Burmese. Now, many people are using smartphones to go online. But only about one percent of Burma's population has an Internet connection. Most of them are thought to have Facebook accounts.

This year, the American-based group Freedom House described the Internet in Burma as "not free." It noted barriers to availability as a major problem. However, restrictions on many websites have been eased. And officials have reduced the most severe sentence for violating Burma's electronic transactions act. Yet observers say Burma still has a long way to go to create a free Internet environment. Nay Phone Latt is a former political prisoner. He was charged with crimes under the electronic transactions act. Now that he is free, he advises the government on its communications policies. He says the government now uses the Internet to ask the public for comments, a big change from even a few years ago.