Connectivity and the Healthcare Sector in Myanmar

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Announcing: Walsh, John, “Connectivity and the Healthcare Sector in Myanmar,” paper presented at the First Workshop of the Second Phase of ERIA Digital Economy, Innovation, and East Asia’s Competitiveness (January 21st-22nd, Bangkok).

I attended the first workshop of the second phase of ERIA’s project on the Digital Economy, Innovation and East Asia’s Competitiveness at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit Hotel, here in sunny Bangkok earlier this week. It went well. Here is my abstract:

One of the results of the long isolation of Myanmar and its people has been the way in which its healthcare industry has become obsolete and lacking in resources. Although wealthy Myanmar people have been able to travel to Thailand or Singapore for contemporary standards of healthcare for the last few years, this option has not been available for the majority of the people. Instead, they have been required to rely on low-cost options, such as the use of generic pharmaceutical products and traditional remedies, in the absence of affordable and high-quality local services. The issues are compounded by the absence of modern healthcare products, the inability of healthcare staff to learn from overseas sources and the limitations on modern communications on almost any subject. However, this situation is changing as the country is opening to the world and burgeoning connectivity is enhancing the ability of individuals and organizations to exchange information, travel and import equipment and expertise. Inevitably, the degree to which people are able to benefit from these changes is uneven because there is not an even distribution of the means of connectivity, i.e. infrastructure, education, market access and equipment. This paper reports on both qualitative and quantitative programmes of research aimed at identifying the different uses of ICT in improving connectivity in healthcare in Myanmar, featuring respondents in both the urban centre of Mandalay and in rural areas. The quantitative research will focus on the everyday life of people and the ways in which aspects of connectivity are incorporated within those lives with respect to various aspects of healthcare. The qualitative research will focus on personal interviews with a range of relevant stakeholders in activities relating to healthcare, including healthcare provision, use of medical laboratories, importing of healthcare equipment, pharmaceutical distribution and hospital management. The results of the research are added to already existing knowledge of Myanmar society to illustrate the nature of rapidly changing lives that are inequitably providing previously unavailable opportunities and aspirations. Some policy recommendations are drawn from the analysis.

Keywords: connectivity; healthcare; inequitable change; Myanmar; social change

The next workshop is likely to be in Indonesia in April, by which time a draft paper should be available for all participants.

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