Copyright ©2019-20 Paula Bock
Though Myanmar is the poorest country in Southeast Asia with the least developed financial system, it has leapfrogged most nations around the globe in mobile phone and internet use. Most people in Myanmar have jumped straight to smartphones and social media networks.
94% of the population can access 3G/4G networks
85% of households have at least one mobile phone
There are more SIMS than people
Five mobile financial service providers create a competitive market, keeping rates low.
Maturation of the smartphone market in Myanmar took only four years, whereas other places have taken a decade or more.
There is no other place in the world, and no other time in history, where so many poor women have so much access to information and networks.
In Myanmar, technology + women networks are what makes this rare opportunity so exciting.
With pervasive smartphone usage (even among the poor), progressive regulations, and a limited banking system, Myanmar provides an exceptional environment to innovate and demonstrate how unbanked women can be empowered through digital tools and mobile financial services.
Equally robust are Myanmar's vast networks of women's community organizations and savings groups which are ideal for:
Learning and sharing digital literacy and livelihood skills; uptake is high since trusted, locally-led groups understand local languages, cultures, incentives and markets
Incubating new entrepreneurial and employment opportunities to create new income streams for women who are vulnerable in the informal economy
Mobilizing Myanmar's women-to-women training simultaneously strengthens women's networks and communities, helping to stabilize society. Women who are digitally empowered and networked are more resilient, more resourceful, and better equipped to deal with financial, societal and environmental turmoil.