Information and communication technologies hold enormous potential to transform countries, strengthen economies and tackle poverty. But in order to catalyze that change, citizens first need to be connected to those technologies, and then begin to create an ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship and collaboration.
For many years, Myanmar has struggled to gain its technological footing. In 2013, the country had the third-lowest Internet penetration rate in the world: just 1.2 Internet users per 100 people, far behind the neighboring countries of Thailand (28.9) and China (45.8). The World Bank is helping address this challenge, pledging $31.5 million in February to help Myanmar expand telecommunications access, improve quality and lower costs.
However, infrastructure is just part of the solution; transformative potential also requires gathering a community to develop the tools that will drive positive change. That’s why, in March, the World Bank partnered with Code for Change Myanmar, Internews and Ooredoo to hold the country’s first-ever “hackathon.”
Hackathons are events that empower developers, designers and entrepreneurs to meet and work together – typically over a short amount of time – to find and build solutions to specific social challenges.
“Myanmar is on the cusp of a revolution in connectivity,” explained David Madden, founder of Code for Change Myanmar. “The purpose of this hackathon is to help the technology community use its skills and talents to solve practical problems in Myanmar.”