Myanmar ICT Development Organisation (MIDO) will host “Myanmar Internet Freedom Forum” in Yangon from June 1-2. In the first forum of its kind in Burma, MIDO aims to raise awareness of Internet freedom in a country that has endured decades of media censorship
Last August, Freedom House called for proposals that would promote and protect Internet freedom around the world. Two winners were chosen, from Syria and Burma, at UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) last November to develop their project proposals. MIDO, as one of the winners, pitched the idea of an “Internet Freedom Forum”, which will take place next month in Yangon.
In a country with a notoriously low Internet penetration rate, MIDO has been conducting Internet and communications technology (ICT) training in cities and remote areas “to empower citizens using ICT to address core development and poverty-reduction goals.” It is involved in BarCamps and government organized forums as well.
“As our organisation focuses on ICT4D and Internet Policy, Internet freedom is also a vital issue that we look on,” said Htaike Htaike Aung, Program Manager of MIDO.
The major goal of the Myanmar Internet Freedom Forum is to advocate for Internet freedom in Burma (Myanmar). “As the media and policy makers do not have awareness on Internet Governance Forum and its agenda, the issues have not been addressed and lack media attention,” said MIDO in its proposal submission. “Not having local resources on Internet Governance is also a cause for the lack of advocacy groups and campaigns.”
MIDO also aims to promote “access” and “digital rights” with a multi-stakeholderism approach involving government, journalists, bloggers, social media activists, netizens and international experts so that all voices are allowed and heard. Various topics such as Cyber Law, Digital Security, E-education and Netizen Empowerment will be discussed during panel discussions and breakout sessions at the event.
MIDO expects 300 attendees for Day 1 of the forum, when the Center for Internet and Society, the Thai Netizen Network and other regional groups will be joining local netizens and organisations for discussion. “For the government representatives, we’re still trying to get confirmation,” explained Htaike Htaike.
MIDO will invite about 20 netizens from around the country to join interested participants from Yangon to discuss how to effectively monitor Internet freedom on the second day of the forum. The aim is to establish a network to monitor and report on Internet censorship in Burma. MIDO hopes to publish Internet Censorship Index each year with help of the reports generated from the network.
With a 7% of Internet penetration rate, this is a problematic area in Burma, though there has been some progress and Internet business opportunities have begun to emerge. The Internet Freedom Forum, as an all-inclusive platform, has potential to bring necessary knowledge to the public, such as awareness of rights when accessing Internet and other privacy issues which are vital for new netizens.