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Communications of the ACM

Global computing

Mobile Computing and Political Transformation

Myanmar's Suu Kyi on cellphone screen

Myanmar's National League for Democracy party leader Suu Kyi is shown on a cellphone screen held by a supporter celebrating election results last November.

Credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP Photo

In much of the world personal computing happens with mobile phones. In 2010 the South East Asian country of Myanmar (aka Burma) had the world's lowest rate of mobile phone penetration. Only 1% of its population had a mobile phone subscription, about the same as its landline penetration.6 The same year war-torn Somalia experienced 7% mobile penetration, and even North Korea had 1.8%. By 2014 Myanmar had jumped to 54% mobile penetration, Somalia had 50%, and the North Koreans just 11%. The government of Myanmar anticipates 80% penetration sometime this year.1

After 20 years of military rule, Myanmar held its first election in 2010. The political party aligned with the government won 80% of contested seats but international observers called the election a sham.9 The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD, the party of Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi) didn't even bother to contest. Contrast November of 2015 when Myanmar held another national election and this time it was viewed as successful.12 The NLD won just under 80% of the contested seats and today is standing up a new government with a close Suu Kyi confident tapped as president.a


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