Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Burmese IT Contest to Aid Junta?

The Irrawaddy News

Burmese IT technicians and bloggers suspect a Burmese search engine contest was designed by the Burmese military junta in order to increase its internet restriction technology and ability to control websites and blogs.

The Myanmar Computer Professional Association (MCPA) invited individuals and groups to compete for the title of MCPA Challenge Winner 2009 in the Myanmar Engine Contest, sources within the MCPA said last week.

The research-based contest is being held with the aim of “encouraging the development of the country’s information and communication technology (ICT), expanding the use of the Myanmar (Burmese) language in the ICT sector and enhancing the youth’s interest in the creation and ICT research,” according to an MCPA statement.

“Building such a search engine is like creating a small version of Google,” said a Rangoon-based IT expert speaking to The Irrawaddy. “It would take at least six months to create an engine that would be useful to governmental departments searching through data. Such an engine could help Burmese authorities find relevant information very quickly.”

Contestants must register by Aug 30 and will be given six months to develop the engine after they have submitted an initial application. The winner will be announced in June 2010 and will be awarded US $3,000.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, Rangoon-based activist Blogger Kamikaze said: “I am rather doubtful about this search engine contest. We need to carefully consider whether to compete in this contest because the military junta can use it to exploit IT technicians and control IT technology. They already block blogs and Web sites like Yahoo and Youtube, but most IT technicians and bloggers can overcome these obstacles.”

The regime has been constructing a “Silicon Valley” called Yadanabon Cyber City near Maymyo in Mandalay Division, since June 2006. According to state-run newspapers, the facility is intended to serve as the sole nationwide internet service provider (ISP) in Burma.

Currently, Burma has three ISPs: the state-run Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), which operates Myanmar Info Tech; the semi-government-owned Myanmar Teleport Company Ltd (formerly Bagan Net); and Hanthawaddy National Gateway.

In 2005 the Burmese military junta became more sophisticated in censoring online material after the introduction of a new firewall supplied by the US-based company Fortinet.

According to the Norway-based Pandia Search Engine News, the new search engine contest could have two purposes.

One could be to identify young Burmese with computer skills and prevent them from developing technology that threatens the regime.

“We know of activists that have managed to get around the walls of the censors,” Pandia said, “The opposition often use proxy servers and special software to get access to information.

“Another [purpose] could be to get the winners of the competition to serve the regime by developing a search engine that can be used to block any kind of unwanted information.

“It seems like the competition is open for non-Burmese as well, which means that they could hope to enlist politically naive computer experts in their fight against democracy. There is only one possible conclusion in our mind: a total boycott of this competition,” Pandia said.

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too