NZ’s role in getting quality internet to Myanmar
Tom Linn has always wanted to use his expertise in telecommunications to benefit the country where he was raised, Myanmar. Now the Technical Director of fast-growing ISP Wireless Nation is working with old university friends to do just that, by helping bring the nation up to speed through quality internet services.
After decades of military rule, Myanmar’s more recent reformist government has flung open the doors to progress.
Independent advisors have said telecommunications sits alongside banking as sectors where change needs to be fast-tracked, to create jobs. They’ve pointed out telecommunications can improve GDP dramatically. The government has since emphasised the importance of heavy investment in the sector.
Now a settled Aucklander, go-getter Tom Linn left Myanmar to study in Bangkok when he finished high school, as all the institutions offering his chosen field of study had been shut down.
He completed a Bachelor of Computer Engineering from Assumption University in Thailand, and eventually moved to New Zealand in 2003.
Since then he’s founded three successful digital companies, including Wireless Nation, an ISP which specialises in ‘outside the square’ broadband solutions such as Satellite Internet for remote rural properties and fast connections for congested apartment buildings.
“I was always passionate about telecommunications,” Linn says. “Telecommunications connect people – and if you manage to connect people they can share their knowledge and expertise. And then they can do great things together.”
It was as the political landscape was changing in Myanmar that Linn returned for a visit, and met up with old university classmates who are now at Naung Yoe Technology Co., Ltd.” It’s already been part of a number of major national development projects, such as Yangon International Airport, the Myanmar Convention Centre and the Parliament buildings.
The company now wants to get satellite broadband coverage over 100 per cent of the country.
When Linn heard their plan, he was interested in getting involved.
“I wanted to help improve the access to the internet. I knew the nation was suffering with poor internet coverage and it was really making things difficult in the export/import market and the tourism sector, for example.
“As soon as the system goes down, airlines can’t make reservations, tour operators can’t call their airlines or email them, it is really damaging the economy. I wanted to be a part of improving that, writing that history.”
Linn says it’s exciting to even to imagine that remote rural villages, which have no access to decent phones, will be able to get online very rapidly with the use of satellite and wireless technologies.
“It’ll open the whole new Internet education in those parts of the country. They will become the newest ‘netizens’ in the world and gain access to online learning and websites like Wikipedia and receive up to date news on what is happening in the other parts of the country and the rest of the world. ”
Linn has a vision of holidaymakers in far-flung parts of Myanmar being able to post selfies and shots of the beautiful landscape straight to social media.
Holiday snaps aside, he simply can’t emphasise enough how crucial solid telecommunications systems are.
“If people have access to decent internet, they can then get all the materials, the technology and the knowledge, really quickly. It will help develop and grow the economy and make people more prosperous.”
While local partners can work on government negotiations and regulatory requirements, Wireless Nation can offer the expertise it’s found in addressing New Zealand’s own digital divide – harnessing Satellite Internet to get broadband to farmers, and other rural residents, who have no access to any other coverage.
Linn says Satellite Internet has two main advantages – a 99.9 per cent availability rate (which is higher than fibre), and its ability to cover a huge land mass, which is extra relevant in someone like Myanmar.
He points out Wireless Nation also has a wealth of practical experience, from installation to operating the service effectively.
“Our local partner knows how to deliver that service to the customer base and how to communicate effectively with them. And at the same time they have the capability to get into the government sector so we can obtain the necessary permits and licences.”
Linn believes emerging economies like Myanmar are where New Zealand businesses should be looking if they are seeking to grow, rather than glamour nations like the US which are already congested with competition.
He points out Myanmar is rich in natural resources like oil and gas, and rubies and jade, plus it’s bordered by the world’s two most populous countries in India and China – it has ready access to consumers.
“With the rise of the middle class in both countries, they are now demanding better food and services. Myanmar has every opportunity to be able to export high quality food to those countries. New Zealand is such a specialist in this area and therefore there is plenty of opportunity to invest and do business together.”