Four years ago, Myanmar was the land of US$2,000 SIM cards. Today, more than half of all adults in Myanmar have smartphones because they cost only US$23 and data costs pennies. Mobile money has the potential to disrupt entrenched structures that have kept most people—especially women, ethnic minorities, and rural farmers—in deep poverty.
Mobilizing Myanmar, a research report commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, explores the momentous transformation underway in a once-isolated country where cell towers are now sprouting faster than bamboo.
The research team, led by Pwint Htun, conducted a country-level diagnostic that leveraged data from the Central Bank, Ministry of Communications, the three telecommunication companies operating in Myanmar, Facebook, Viber, a survey of 7,500 households, and recent census data from the UNFPA. They also talked with more than 150 people in rural and urban areas about their mobile phone usage, financial lives, challenges and hopes.
Their findings reveal an ideal environment for a smartphone revolution to connect the poor with economic opportunity. Digital Financial Services (DFS) would allow them not only to securely hold money, make deposits and withdrawals and save, but also to connect to markets, create income-generating opportunities and transmit and receive funds from family members working abroad.
Download the report here.