One of the big stories coming out of Burma in 2013 was the rewarding of telecoms licenses to foreign firms Telenor and Ooredoo. While building telecoms infrastructure is certainly vital for growth in the country, so is tech literacy. To that end, the Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (Mido) is working with the U.S. embassy in Yangon to hold the country’s first ever TechCamp this January.

Between 100-150 participants will gather for the camp, which is being held under the banner “Technology Unites Us,” according to Eleven Myanmar. The main goal of the camp, scheduled for Jan. 13-14, is to spur civic engagement and empower people to spread information about news and goings-on within the country, and “to brainstorm on how technology can be used to address real world challenges,” according to Eleven Myanmar. Burma is currently a hotbed of growth and international investment, sometimes at the expense of local communities. A wired and technologically literate population would help shed light on the far-reaching effects development is having in the country, for good and for ill.

Burma students use internet access at an Internet cafe in Yangon. Internet penetration in Burma remains extremely low. Pic: AP.

“The goal is to increase the digital literacy of CSOs and connect CSOs to local, regional and international technology communities,” Eleven Myanmar quoted a U.S. embassy official as saying. The U.S. State Department has held a number of Tech Camps in cities around the globe, including Bangkok, Mumbai, Tel Aviv and Ramallah, and Guatemala City. According to the State Department website, TechCamps are part of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Civil Society 2.0 initiative, and “aim to build the digital literacy of civil society through two-day, interactive training events.”

In a promotional video about the TechCamp, a U.S. embassy official said that the organizers would cover the travel costs of participants coming from outside Yangon, including transportation, accommodation and travel, in order to encourage people from outside the city to join.

Technology is a driving force for spreading information and empowering people to educate themselves, as well as seek job opportunities online. In a country where the telecoms penetration rate was less than 10 percent as of June 2013, there is much ground to be gained in terms of getting the population online. The sessions will be held in English and Burmese.

MIDO hopes that the TechCamp will spur civil engagement as more people become familiar with the tools available to engage with one another and spread information about what is happening in the country. By bringing together tech experts and civil society advocates, they can help organizations expand their reach.

“Civil society groups in our country are not developing enough since they don’t know how to use technology efficiently in their work,” said Nay Phone Latt, the executive director of Mido, according to The Irrawaddy.

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