Google’s Schmidt Tells Rangoon Students Internet Will Open Burma

By Lawi Weng 22 March 2013

RANGOON — Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt on Friday said that Burma’s reforms will help establish rule of law in the country.

The Google exec spoke to a crowd of about 500 students in Rangoon during his first visit to the country.

Schmidt served as Google CEO for 10 years when he witnessed the growth of the Internet.

Schmidt said: “I was in post-Gaddafi Libya, Afghanistan of course, I was even in North Korea, which is a really wacky place, and I’m convinced that you are all in for the ride of your life right now.

“Your government has made an incredibly important political decision to open up the country to foreign ideas, to the Internet, to your own communications, to your own newspapers, these are exciting on any level,” he continued.

“But there’s one more thing—the Internet will make it impossible to go back. The Internet, once in place, guarantees that communication and empowerment become the law and the practice of your country.”

US Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell, who attended the event, said the advent of wide access to the Internet in Burma would further development in the country.

“Technology is a powerful tool to advance development in your country and spur sustainable economic growth,” Mitchell said.

Google is looking to invest in Burma, and Schmidt told students his current visit was a “fact-finding” mission, and the company had not yet decided when it would invest.

Amy Kunrojpanya, Google’s head of communications and public affairs Indochina, said: “It is a little early to say how we are going to help Myanmar, and this trip was made so that we could listen and learn from Burmese people, and decide what is the best thing to do to help.”

She added that people in Burma would benefit from the jobs Google’s presence would bring and from the more open access to information.

The students welcomed Schmidt’s comments, saying the freedom of information the opening up of the Internet in Burma would bring would help students.

Nay Phone Latt, a blogger and former political prisoner, said it was a good thing Google was moving into Burma.

“We could not use Google applications, such as Play, Maps, Google Earth and even Gmail. When they come here, it will be a great benefit,” he said.

Nay Phone Latt added that it would be a good thing if Google co-operated with the government.

Schmidt was due to meet President Thein Sein on Friday evening in Naypyidaw.