MYANMAR: SQUAR – The Next Facebook?

ALEXANDRE GUIRAUD-COINTREAU WRITES – While the once-repressive Myanmar transitions to democratic rule with new freedoms being given, the country is discovering equally new ways to communicate and exchange ideas. One is a new website, also available as a smartphone application, called Squar.

The website TechInAsia describes Squar as the first social media site fully available in Myanmar’s official language. According to Forbes magazine, the website aims to replace Facebook in Myanmar, as well as other social media websites, with all the necessary online tools present on one platform. It’s not supposed to act as a new portal for people to simply ‘Like’ and ‘Share,’ but rather a platform to create new content. Its founder, Rita Nguyen, explains that she raised the $500,000 investment that was needed through just three investors, who, she claims, saw it as a great business opportunity and a chance for the population to connect.

But in a country where freedom of speech has been an ongoing issue, the problem Squar faces is different from what many would expect. According Nguyen, “Our problem isn’t politics or infrastructure.… It’s teaching people how they can use this technology they’ve never used before.… How do we bring the Internet to a country that has been largely excluded from the international society for over sixty years?”

Beyond changing people’s psychology, technology itself remains a hurdle, as the population still struggles to find easy access to the Internet. Connectivity has been somewhat eased through the use of smartphones. But, SIM cards, like the micro SIM needed for newer iPhones, remain expensive.

Hopefully, as the Squar platform develops, it will help both individuals and society as a whole grow into their new freedoms.


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