Internet connectivity in Myanmar (Burma)

Last weekend ( Feb 19th & 20th) I was in Yangon for BarCamp Yangon. It probably had an attendance of > 4k participants... Probably one of the largest BarCamps ever, despite the fact that the internet connectivity in Myanmar sucks big time.... Really unusable... I used internet at the free "wifi" internet at the hotel and the wifi arranged by the organizers. Both places, the speeds I've seen range from 0 kbps to ~50 kbps.... most of the time around 0 kbps :P

Internet access

Most locals use internet at cafes/internet shops. The average shop would have 512 kbps connection shared between 15 to 20 computers charging 300 to 500 MKY ( US$ 0.3 to 0.5 ) per hour for usage. Some give discount if you bring your own laptop, some don't. I didn't get a chance to visit a cafe, this is based on what people told me. Most geeks have a computer at home, very few have laptops. ADSL is available but is very expensive. It costs > $1000 setup fee + $120/month for a mere 512 kbps. Only the very rich people can afford it. Mobile internet was unheard of until few weeks ago. They don't have gprs there, but recently they launched 3G and CDMA for wireless internet. CDMA would charge around $0.10/minute for 1 or 2 mbps (don't remember clearly). Out of the few sites i tried opening, only Facebook seemed to be usable. This is due to the enormous effort they invest in frontend performance. Google search was also fast, but none of the sites in the results seemed to open. The average DNS query took me 2+ seconds to resolve. DNS access is limited to the ISPs crappy nameserver, I couldn't use opendns or any external nameservers. Almost all local sites are hosted outside of Myanmar cause domestic connectivity is as bad as international routes. Server co-location fees are 10x in Burma than in America.


I didn't use the internet much... but here is what I found. Among the sites/services blocked :- I am building a new webservice called www.{secret}.com . Hardly anyone knows about it. Its got only 3 users, and has nothing to do with Burma. That site was somehow blocked in Burma (only one ISP). I cant understand how {secret} could trigger any phrase based blocklists or something.. Makes me feel important if governments block my site... My moment of pride :- secret project blocked in burma


BarCamp Yangoon 2011 was probably the biggest barcamp ever with about 4500 to 5000 participants (with about 20 - 30 foreigners traveling in from abroad). An interesting activity was file swapping. There were about 20 - 30 computers setup with shared folders which participants used to exchange software/music/etc. Based on a simple survey, everyone uses Firefox. Very few people use Linux. Windows is very popular due to rampant piracy. I was considering giving a talk on web performance optimization on day 2 of the event, but didn't go thru with it cause an American expat covered the topic well on day 1. One thing that I should have done would be to download all the Velocity Conference videos and pass it around... unfortunately it occurred to me to late. Ill try to arrange it now... The country has great people... It can succeed in this digital age if only America and other western countries lift sanctions on Burma..
Tags: #bcy2011 BarCamp burma censorship myanmar site performance yangon
Categories: rants