Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Only in Burma

Previously Burma was notable for its cyber cafés without access to the Internet. Now you can access the Internet at cyber cafés provided you submit to the junta's monitoring and restrictions.

The article below is from The Irrawaddy.

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First Internet Cafés Launched

By Naw Seng

May 21, 2003—Two public Internet cafés opened in Rangoon on May 10, offering Burmese without personal computers their first opportunity to access email and the World Wide Web.

Fortune International Group and May Hka Group both opened cybercafés at different locations in Rangoon on the same day, said sources in the capital.

An official from the Fortune International Group said anyone was welcome to visit its café and surf the web. Servers were provided by Bagan Cybertech, the largest provider of information technology in Burma after the government’s own Myanmar Post and Telecommunications.

The Burmese government allowed limited email and Internet access for the first time in 2001. One thousand people with their own computer and modem technology bought government email accounts that year. Private companies, such as Bagan Cybertech, were granted a government concession to sell email accounts in 2002 and have to date sold more than 20,000 accounts, ranging in price from 60,000 (US $60) to over 100,000 kyat for lifetime access.

The new cybercafés are subject to government restrictions on Internet usage. All Internet traffic in Burma passes through government servers, which do not allow patrons to visit sites banned by regime’s censors. "You can access around 10,000 web sites," said a visitor to one of the outlets, who paid 1,000 kyat for one hour online.

"Our cybercafé does not allow to access free email accounts like Hotmail and Yahoo!," said a Fortune official. Bagan Cybertech is planning to sell personal email accounts at both the cafés in the near future. The accounts will cost 10,000 kyat per year.

Some visitors have been annoyed by the registration system at the cafés. "Every person has to register their name, identification number and contact address," said one customer. Fortune International Group responded by saying that customers only have to register on their first visit.

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