One of the core values of a democracy is public participation, and it is extremely important for the people to have access to accurate and up-to-date information and data. This is a field where Myanmar is still very much behind in comparison to its neighbors.
Although the private sector, NGOs and the government are trying to digitize access to data, the challenges in terms of technical knowledge, resources and capacity are immense. But there is help, for example the Myanmar Information Management Unit, which is cooperating with the government bodies to develop a unified map system with accurate and consistent usage of village, township and city names across the country. Even the creation of such a basic thing as a unified map would be a great success.
Open data access would not only provide the opportunity for the public to find information, but it would also give credibility to the government, encourages more transparency and ultimately lead to a higher accountability.
For now the reality is that there are numerous barriers for journalists to fully utilize the available data in Myanmar. The government is yet to provide guidelines that clearly distinguish between what is public and private data in a legal way. Furthermore, there are old laws and restrictions in place, that make journalist feel reluctant to use the available data, especially if it originates from the government.
In terms of collecting data across the country, there are challenges for accurate data collection as some of the areas in Kachin, Shan, Rakhine and Kayin States are suffering from intensive conflicts are remain nearly inaccessible.
FES Myanmar and Phandeyaar have tried to address all of these issues by hosting the “Open Data was which took place in Yangon, Myanmar on the 4th of March of 2019. Bringing together data specialists, civil society activists and development professionals is a small step to create a community which cares about openness of data.
The Open Data Day 2019 was the very first event of the series called “Civic Tech Talks”. The overall goal of “Civic Tech Talks” is to create a civic-tech community and to raise awareness of important social issues relating to technology in Myanmar. Stay tuned for my updates from this series at Civic Tech Talk FB page.
For more information on the Civic Tech Talks contact the FES Office in Myanmar.