Mar 15, 2013

Google's Schmidt to Visit Myanmar

Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt heads to Myanmar next week, a sign of the Southeast Asian country's appeal to leading U.S. technology companies as it emerges from decades of secrecy and crippling Western sanctions.

The visit, set for March 22, will be the first by a high-level executive from a major U.S. technology company. Many American companies have been held back by U.S. regulations that restrict their access to this market of 60 million people, giving international rivals an edge.

Mr. Schmidt's visit follows a high-profile personal trip to North Korea, which has similarly low Internet penetration but remains far more isolated and closed off to U.S. companies than Myanmar, now widely seen as the region's newest investment darling.

"Eric [Schmidt] is visiting several countries in Asia to connect with local partners...who are working to improve the lives of many millions of people across the region by helping them get online," said Google spokesman Taj Meadows.

Mr. Meadows didn't provide specifics about Mr. Schmidt's agenda, but industry experts in Yangon said Mr. Schmidt plans to speak at a public event with local entrepreneurs and students.

Myanmar's information-technology sector is seen as a potential billion-dollar industry, soon to be boosted by planned advances in telecommunications. Two licenses will shortly be awarded to foreign operators, a step that will likely improve Internet and mobile networks in the country.

President Thein Sein's nominally civilian government has pledged to open the once-sensitive sector, piquing the interest of companies world-wide. Under the previous military government, online communication was considered highly sensitive and was tightly controlled.

The government hopes to increase mobile-phone ownership to 80% of the population by 2016, from 9% now.

Source: Fox Business