My smart phone had been run over by a car and for some reason was no longer working. I spent two days in Yangon working on getting a new smart phone and getting it to work to my satisfaction.
I was willing to pay full price for a new phone from Verizon but they would not ship it out of the USA and also were requesting that I ship back to them my damaged unit. So I shopped around and bought a new phone here in Yangon. Using the slow WiFi at my hotel, I downloaded all of the applications I needed.
I was pleasantly surprised at the number of mobile phone stores near me in Yangon. There were big showrooms as well as small family owned storefronts selling handsets and SIM cards. I even noticed a few street vendors selling new SIM cards and used handsets, both displayed on rickety card tables. All of this was certainly to my advantage, and I ended up buying a new Samsung phone, paying no more than I would have in a store in India or online through Amazon, based on my research.
The SIM card was five dollars, down from around $2000 five years ago (Businessweek, September 29, 2014). The major carriers have plans to quickly sell millions of SIM cards in Myanmar (CNET, October 2, 2014), and from the traffic in the mobile phone stores, the people are buying.
Let’s hope that this technology boom will not only give the disenfranchised Myanmar people Angry Birds, but also provide them with tremendous opportunities for learning, a stronger connection to the outside world, and voices that cannot be silenced by selfish and corrupt dictators, as we witness Myanmar Moving Toward Democracy, Smart Phones in Hand (One World, October 19th, 2014).