Mobile ownership

Ownership of mobile phones has continued to grow in Myanmar. In 2016, a survey from MIDO and LIRNEasia put household ownership of mobile phones at 83 percent, up from 57 percent on the previous year. The average number of mobile phones per household was 2.3, with SIM card ownership slightly higher than that at 2.9. In the same time period, the proportion of individuals who said they had never used a mobile phone reduced from 31 percent to 9 percent.

The increased availability of cheap smartphones has meant there is a high level of smartphone use: the average amount spent on purchasing a mobile phone was around US$90, with US$6 per month spent on top-up — with a pronounced disparity in expenditure on top-up between urban and rural dwellers, the latter spending half the amount over a month.

A gender gap continues to exist, with women 28 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than men in 2016. Over one quarter of active SIM owners owned more than one SIM card - around 56 percent said this was in order to ensure they got coverage wherever they went.

The gender gap is highest among lower income households, and in particular those spending and earning less than K500,000 per month, or around US$320. The most commonly cited reason for not owning a mobile phone, according to a survey from LIRNEasia, was cost. The second most cited reason was there was 'no need' to own one, with the reasoning being that a mobile phone might be necessary for a family member engaged in business. However, others in the family would not have the same need if they were not running a business. It is here that the gender gap emerges, even though changing concepts about the role of women in society and the workforce are gradually bringing about a shift to attitudes, as well as the gender gap on mobile connectivity.

As mentioned above, digital and technological literacy is low: According to a survey by MIDO, only 18 percent of mobile users could create a login for a site independently, and 21 percent knew how to install an app. However, this is in part likely due to a lack of Myanmar-language options in app stores.