Are you fascinated by the impact of technology, online media and mobile connectivity on the future of civil society in developing countries?
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The Southeast Asian country Myanmar – aka Burma – is incredibly complex and unpredictable. It is a crossroad of various interests and seems to defy any attempt to identify a consistency – be it in terms of governance, ethnicity, or economy.
My interest in Myanmar – or more precise its people – consequently includes the Burmese diaspora.
Another focus is on Japan, initially starting from 1994 when I took up training in Aikido and eventually leading to basic language skills.
Lastly, over a language degree at university and over ten years of residence in the Czech Republic – with a short excursion to Slovakia – strengthened my familiarity with that region.
Information and Communication Technology will continue to play a crucial role in the empowerment of civil society groups, especially where local authorities and society impede open activities, where funding is insufficient or where local travel conditions prevent face-to-face meetings. We need, however, to apply it carefully and be aware that it is no magic bullet for positive change.
The technological development produces in short time many new forms of media that not only require special skills to participate in the creation of content, but also a new literacy for the changed usage patterns that affect even the way how we use traditional media. While the phenomena that prominently have been labelled as “Web 2.0” offer unprecedented possibilities to engage civil society actors, they, at the same time, also bear the risk to entrench a digital divide. Qualification is therefore key to empowerment.
In developing countries and countries in transition, mobile networks are often more accessible and affordable than wired connections. The development of mobile infrastructure proceeds significantly faster than the modernization of landlines, and low costs for end users persuade them to connect to the Internet via mobile devices. Any strategy that seeks to connect individuals and communities to the web therefore needs to consider the relevance of mobile Internet access in these regions.
After studies in Germany and England and completing the magister degree at university, I worked in journalism for print, radio, and web-based media. In 2006, I co-founded the Czech nonprofit organization Burma Center Prague and continuously contributed as one of two core members, developing it to one of the main organizations working on Myanmar/Burma with activities in Europe and Asia and a team of up to eight employees. I was involved as project manager in a project that is funded mainly through the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that seeks to empower the Burmese civil society living in India, with some activities inside Myanmar/Burma. Apart from that, I am responsible at the Burma Center for IT and research.
During my work with Burma Center Prague, I established and customized several websites.
I also launched a website that presents less known destinations in the Czech Republic to German readers and I created several audio tours for smartphones.