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Wow! Viber Beats Facebook in Myanmar

By Wayan Vota on September 12, 2014


Often, we have the perception that a developing country’s use of technology is limited to voice and SMS text messages on basic or feature phones. When you are thinking of Myanmar, you will need to adjust that perception.

First, Facebook adoption is tracking Internet adoption, pretty much one-for-one. Like in many countries, Internet users in Myanmar often even think Facebook is the Internet. Interestingly, the most popular Facebook brand pages in the country are for the new mobile network operators, Ooredoo and Telenor. People are ready to get online with their phones.

Next, before you think Facebook is the most popular application, check out On-Device’s Myanmar research, which found that Viber is even more popular than Facebook. 58% of 577 respondents polled said they used Facebook, 79% said they regularly use Viber, which claims over 5 million users in Myanmar.

Viber allows free voice calls and messaging, and according to Talmon Marco, Viber’s chief executive, Viber works better than other apps on Myanmar’s dodgy mobile networks and its primarily facilitating text messaging versus voice calls.

Now this result may not be surprising when you consider that mobile phones have a 10% adoption rate, while Internet users are only 1% of the population, but don’t think that means those in Myanmar are going to be offline forever. Myanmar will be the first smartphone-only country and all best are off on who will have the largest user base in 2015 and beyond.

But you know who will not have the largest user base? Plain voice and text. Communications, in all its forms, will be an app-centric experience for Myanmar, so start adjusting your program design now.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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One Comment to “Wow! Viber Beats Facebook in Myanmar”

  1. robert la quey says:

    No surprise here. At least 5 Billi0n of the world’s 7 Billion people are in this situation.

    Here is the key to understanding: ” Viber works better than other apps on Myanmar’s dodgy mobile networks and its primarily facilitating text messaging versus voice calls.”

    I live in the Philippines. Text messaging is king.