Irrawaddy Surges Ahead as Internet Use in Burma Grows

By The Irrawaddy 7 July 2012

While the print media in Burma still fights the censorship battle on a daily basis, online Burmese media continues to expand at a fast rate. As a leading online Burmese news agency, The Irrawaddy is at the forefront of this change and is ranked in the top 13 online sites in Burma by Alexa, a web information company that provides global traffic rankings.

In 2012, The Irrawaddy has seen its highest level of access from readers worldwide, with more than 6.3 million website visits from more than 180 countries in the first five months of this year.

Much of the increase is due to the changes in online censorship in Burma. Since August last year, The Irrawaddy has seen a seen a huge jump in access from readers inside the country. Before the firewalls were lifted late last year, there were fewer than 20,000 visits per month from readers in Burma, who had to use proxy servers to access The Irrawaddy. This has since increased more than tenfold to nearly 270,000 online visits each month.

Burmese social media sites have also boomed in the last six months with Facebook and Twitter being used by journalists, bloggers and readers inside to share news and views. Although there are no official figures, it is well known that the number of Facebook accounts is increasing exponentially in Burma since censorship was eased.

The Irrawaddy currently uses Facebook to link with more than 30,000 followers in both Burmese and English. The Irrawaddy blog, which was originally set up as an election-monitoring and reporting tool in 2010, also now attracts large numbers of readers, averaging more than 87,000 visits from Burma each month.

While global news on Burma is increasingly being covered by the larger news agencies worldwide, there is still a high demand for specialist Burma news and analysis. In this scenario, The Irrawaddy remains a leader in reaching an international audience, being ranked higher than all other exiled and Burmese media sites in its global reach in 2012, according to Alexa Company.

Growth in online media in Burma will continue to be a path for the future. The estimated 400,000 Internet users in the country in 2010 (only 0.8 percent of the population) is expected to explode into far greater numbers as the country develops. This can only be seen as a boon, both for democracy activists and for previously exiled media such as The Irrawaddy, who are linked into a global online network in Burma and worldwide working for press freedom in this rapidly changing country.