Alongside its continuing political transition, Myanmar has also experienced a ‘connectivity revolution’. In 2012, only 10 percent of the population had a mobile phone and just 1 percent had access to the internet. Today, the country has the highest smartphone penetration rate of any developing country.
Myanmar’s newfound connectivity has transformative potential. With a civilian-led government in power for the first time in 50 years, expectations for socio-economic progress are high. For this to happen, a new generation of technologists, civil society leaders, and journalists must be equipped with the know-how to leverage this connectivity. After decades of isolation, these skills are in short supply.
Phandeeyar – meaning 'creation place– is working to change this. A community tech hub, it was set up in 2014 to accelerate development in Myanmar. Based in Yangon, Phandeeyar has spearheaded the growth of the country’s startup ecosystem and helped change agents integrate technology into their work.
Luminate has supported Phandeeyar from the beginning – with our original funding contributing to set-up costs. In its first year of operation, the hub organised over 100 events including 42 workshops, 36 meetups and 21 seminars.
Phandeeyar’s open data platform has become both a vital source of information and a space for local journalists, think tanks, and policy advocates to learn to use data to strengthen their work.
During Myanmar's historic 2015 elections, Phandeeyar demonstrated the positive social impact technology can have. The MaePaySoh (Let’s Vote) Hack Challenge brought together 137 developers to build tools to help people participate in the vote. The winning app was widely used throughout the country.
Our second grant of $2 million helped Phandeeyar significantly scale its work. The hub’s flagship Accelerator has now produced and invested in many of the country’s most promising startups, while hundreds more aspiring entrepreneurs have been trained in Phandeeyar’s Startup Challenge and Founder Institute Yangon. The hub is also improving Myanmar’s technical talent through its coding classes and maker space.
In recent years, Phandeeyar’s open data platform has become both a vital source of information and a space for local journalists, think tanks, and policy advocates to learn to use data to strengthen their work. Finally, as well as hosting and co-organising the Myanmar Digital Rights Forum, Phandeeyar has supported local groups tackling online hate speech and the spread of misinformation.
Luminate shares Phandeeyar’s belief that Myanmar can perform a 'digital leapfrog' and transform the lives of its citizens. With the right support, the country’s startups, social entrepreneurs, and civic leaders can use technology to help tackle the critical challenges facing their country. Phandeeyar is providing that support.