It has been widely reported that when Aung San Suu Kyi was released from her most recent period of house arrest she remarked on the proliferation of mobile phones in Burma. It does seem that the country’s days of limited mobile telephony, and the world’s most expensive phones, are fast fading into history.
I can remember a time when mobiles where almost unheard of anywhere in Southeast Asia. Those were the days of the “pager”, at least among Thailand’s upper-middle classes. The subsequent region-wide boom in mobile phone use is well recounted in this 2007 New Mandala post.
Today even in relatively remote parts of Burma mobile phones are everyday conveniences for the well-to-do. And it may be only a matter of time before the near universal use of mobiles phones, like we see in Thailand, starts to re-define Burmese society.
So what should we ask about mobile telephony in Burma? Are mobile phones, as devices and conveniences, in a different category when it comes time to reflect on technology and culture? To future gaze for a moment, what will Burmese society be like when cheap mobile phone calls are available to the bulk of the country’s people?