National Recovery and the Digital Solution

by Marc Almagro
27 Mar 2023

A leading ICT player in Myanmar explains how the sector became a vital tool in the country’s survival during the pandemic, and how it will continue to shape its eventual recovery
A collaboration between Portfolio and YPO

The COVID-19 pandemic has been called the ‘great accelerator’ of both digitization and digitalization. Before the pandemic and the consequent lockdowns, there was already a palpable gathering of support for both on the back of an increasing reliance on information and communications technology.

But the disruptions in commerce, trade, and many other industries during the pandemic – in the delivery of basic services, the exchange of goods, the flow of supply stream, and the very conduct of normal human life – did indeed hasten the digital transformation.

U Shane Thu Aung, Chairman of Global Technology Company (GTC), a leading telecommunications and next generation service provider in Myanmar, tells us in this episode the important role that the sector played during the pandemic.

In Myanmar, a Southeast Asian nation of 54.81 million people, the situation was as dire as could be expected. The pandemic and the government lockdown, according to one report, have led to significant economic losses, including falling exports and lost revenues from tourism and international remittances.

But there were also glimmering spots of hope – particularly in spaces dominated by information and communications technology.

Labelled as an essential service, ICT helped bridge the physical distances between people, provided connectivity for all participants in the economy, created alternative channels for communication, and helped establish a sense of normalcy and a modicum of reliability in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. 


“There was no other option for many people but to move their businesses online because of the lockdown,” Aung recalls. “The schools were closed and kids couldn’t go out, but there was digital communication media which became a solution to continue their education.” ICT also helped inform and entertain people, and rally them to take action collectively and help one another, he says proudly.

“Internet penetration in Myanmar is 42 million,” Aung shares. “That is a 78 per cent internet penetration. The number of mobile telephones is a 129 per cent of the population.”

Aung and his two other co-founders started GTG 20 years ago by setting up a small ICT company and a small Microsoft training & test center. Today the company is among the leading technology companies in the infrastructure & telecommunications sector, consumer broadband market, and digital & computing market.

“We are building the fiber optic infrastructure across the country,” Aung says. “We are serving consumers through our suite of ICT Solutions, backed up by an extensive data network and infrastructure that spans across key business cities and markets in the region by providing global connectivity, Super Fast Home Broadband, Ultra Fast Business Broadband, and 4G+ LTE Wireless Broadband. Finally, we also become The Leading Cloud Computing Company in Myanmar  through our partnerships with Global Big Teach Companies.”

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Aung says that Myanmar has a broadband coverage of 88 per cent of the population. “Our telecommunication sector is a billion-dollar industry. There are numbers of internet and mobile companies, and clearly there is still room to grow.”

The Portfolio Podcast is presented by YPO, Young Presidents’ Organization. A worldwide leadership community of chief executives with over 30,000 members in more than 130 countries, YPO offers access to rich learning programs, sharing of exceptional experiences, and lasting friendships.