Online Services Expand Beyond Yangon Libraries

Libraries Increase Access to Online Services in Myanmar

Jul 29, 2015 12:16 am | Guest Writer

As Myanmar’s government ministries offer more comprehensive e-government services, rural communities have the most to gain because of their geographic isolation and limited resources.

But those communities tend to have limited access to technology and internet, and although some government information is currently available online at ministry websites, more usable and relevant e-government services have yet to kick in. Only a few ministries offer interactive services, like the Ministry of Commerce’s online applications for import and export licenses and the Ministry of Immigration’s e-visa services.

“But these services are largely for urban and foreign users,” said Dr. Thant Thaw Kaung, CEO of Myanmar Book Center. “They are not yet targeted at the needs of rural users.”

While the country’s e-government services are still being refined, private sector services already exist in Myanmar — including job and scholarship search engines and apps for health and agriculture, developed by telecoms provider Ooredoo.

A key member of Beyond Access’s program in Myanmar, Thant is working to support local public libraries to help people take advantage of existing private sector services. Through this process, librarians will be ready to better serve their communities as complementary e-government services begin to roll out.

“We are training librarians to search for this kind of information so they can offer training to users,” said Thant. “This is a way to both serve existing users and attract new ones. People see the value in this kind of service.”

Through Beyond Access’s partnerships with libraries in Yangon, Bago, Nay Pyi Taw, Mandalay, Sagain, and Magwe, more people in both rural and urban communities now have free access to internet and tablet computers so they can connect to these existing private sector services — and to the new e-government services planned for Myanmar.

In addition to giving library users access to a new range of online services, free internet access and tablet computers also relieve librarians’ limited resources. Before, librarians had to use desktop publishing shops to compose and send reports to government offices — activities that can cost a librarian 30USD out of an 80USD salary each month. Now, with internet access and devices available at the library, librarians can complete these duties free of cost.

With new access to technology and training, Myanmar’s librarians are meeting communities’ emerging needs and connecting them with their government in unprecedented ways.

To ensure widespread access to new e-government services, Thant and his team are working closely with the Ministry of Communication, Information, and Technology — the ministry responsible for implementing Myanmar’s new e-government programs — to advise them on the role of libraries in the process.

“I see librarians playing a major leadership role in the community through e-government services,” Thant said. “Libraries will become community hubs and people will be able to rely on our services.”

Written by Gennie Gebhart and originally published as How Can We Increase Access to Online Services in Myanmar?

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