The project is one part of the World Bank’s larger Telecom Sector Reform Project, which will award the government US$31.5 million of credit to put toward updating the nation’s outdated telecom networks.
“The project will provide technical assistance to, among other things, conduct a due diligence review of laws covering privacy, data protection, cyber-crime, and access to and freedom of information, identify gaps, and recommend a legal and regulatory framework consistent with international good practice,” said U Kyaw Soe Lynn, communications officer for the World Bank in Myanmar.U Kyaw Soe Lynn said the World Bank and the ministry have already held two public consultations in Yangon where citizens and civil society groups discussed legal reforms. More meetings are expected by the end of this year.
U Kyaw Soe Lynn said these public consultations will inform the design of the entire program.Despite these assurances, many civil society groups both inside and outside Myanmar are wary of the project, and say no work should go into the infrastructure until there are firm laws in place to protect privacy.
Given the former government’s long history of spying on citizens, groups like the US Campaign for Burma are worried that the innovations brought by the project will make invasions of privacy even easier.A group of 61 civil society organisations have joined forces to express their dismay over the project, and sent a joint letter to the World Bank expressing their concerns.
“The World Bank’s failure to promote privacy and security reform in Burma while expanding telecom capacity will enable the Burmese government to further engage in surveillance, censorship, and other abuses,” the US Campaign for Burma said in a statement.