China has Weibo and Burma now has Squar. The new social network launched just weeks ago is set to challenge Facebook with the growing number of online Burmese.
While only 10 percent of the population is wired, international telecom companies are expected to soon be providing nationwide internet and connections. The Burmese government has said it will issue licenses to two international corporations to provide nationwide wireless coverage. The target is to provide 80 percent coverage by 2015.
As already described on Asian Correspondent, this trend towards foreign investment and the provision of jobs and employment should do much to improve the quality of life in the nation.
The potential, and potential appetite, for digital is therefore huge. Growth in mobile penetration has already soared in the last two years from 10 to 80 percent, and the coming wireless coverage will open up 60 million consumers, who thanks to half a century of isolation, have remained untapped.
And capitalizing on the opportunities in this area is Squar. From their website:
SQUAR’s vision is to connect all Burmese nationals with an accessible social platform. To create a space where Burmese nationals can meet, connect and share with no boundaries or limitations.
SQUAR is a great way to meet new friends, share information and chat around common interests – all for free and all in Burmese. We provide access through multiple platforms, ensuring that all Burmese can connect and communicate from anywhere in the world.
Described in a Tech in Asia article as “at the bleeding edge of social media”, Squar aims to fill the gap for Burmese hungry seeking new technologies. Tech in Asia interviewed Squar founder Rita Nguyen and quoted her:
Currently, Burmese people are hungry for consumer stuff. Big brands are entering but the only platform is Facebook. There’s nothing really helping consumers day to day, and digital closes those gaps. I mean, print publishers just got granted licenses to print.
Squar has positioned itself to be part of the mobile explosion occurring in the country with Android and web versions already available. While SIM cards still cost as much as $200, Android handsets and smartphones are pouring in and once prices drop are expected to really take off.
While Nguyen acknlowedged there were still some ongoing difficulties for development in Burma she described the opportunities as incredible and akin to a digital revolution:
Sixty million people falling out of the sky–you’re not going to see that again in our generation.