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Boost for Myanmar’s telecom sector from cooperation by Yangon Technological University and the University of Oulu

Boost for Myanmar’s telecom sector from cooperation by Yangon Technological University and the University of Oulu

Finpro has played an important role in the preparations for a newly launched program between Yangon Technological University (YTU) and the University of Oulu, which is aiming to transform Myanmar's education, research and training in the field of telecommunications. This is a three-year HEI ICI-project (Higher Educations Institutions - Institutional Cooperation Instrument) and it is financed by Finland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs from the development cooperation funds.

The signing of the MoU and kick-off event took place in Yangon on 29 May 2017. Myanmar's Union Minister for Education, Professor Myo Thein Gyi, later commended the focus of the three-year cooperation program. "Developing telecom engineering education is very important for Myanmar now, and this program is in line with our national needs and strategy," he said.

The collaboration will start with some of YTU's faculty members coming to Finland to attend courses in Oulu, according to Dr. Nandana Rajatheva, Director of the Doctoral Degree Program, Centre for Wireless Communications, University of Oulu.

"The idea is to upgrade all aspects of Myanmar's education and research related to telecommunications, including the curriculum for Bachelor's and Master's degrees, laboratories and teacher training as well as establishing a diploma program to provide training for people who are already working in the industry," explains Rajatheva.

University of Oulu aims for a big impact

Rajatheva first visited Myanmar in 2015 as part of a business delegation led by Minister of Economic Affairs Jan Vapaavuori and returned to YTU to assess its needs in May this year.

"The university was closed for a long time and does not have proper text books, lecture materials or suitable laboratories to train telecom professionals. We expect the new program to have a significant impact because YTU is viewed as the premier university for engineering in Myanmar and there is a strong demand for qualified professionals in the telecom sector," says Rajatheva.

The plan includes bringing together Myanmar's telecommunications operators in a joint forum to discuss their needs, and to get the industry's commitment to support the successful implementation of the program.

Finpro's active role

Based in Myanmar, Finpro's experts Kai Tuorila and Aye Maw have also played a key role in the inception of the program by connecting YTU with Oulu and building links between different stakeholders in the telecom sector.

"We identified the real need of the growing telecommunications sector in Myanmar for qualified local engineers. After two years of preparation work, it is very satisfying to see the launch of this program," says Kai Tuorila, Program Manager, Finpro.

"We are confident that the program will make a valuable contribution to higher education in Myanmar and provide the vital pool of skilled telecom engineers required for the ongoing digital transformation of Myanmar's fast-growing economy. This can also benefit the Finnish companies operating in Myanmar in the longer term."

There are several Finnish and Finnish led companies currently operating in Myanmar's telecommunications sector, including Nokia Networks and QROI. QROI's HR director, Outi Suojanen has also been facilitating the proposed program. Nokia and network operator Ooredoo (Qatar Telecom) completed the roll-out and launch of the first 4G service in Myanmar in 2016. Mobile phone penetration has increased rapidly from 7% in 2012 to nearly 70% in 2017.

Long-term mutual benefits

Rajatheva has already witnessed the benefits of a similar telecommunications cooperation program at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand, which produced many telecom graduates who are now employed across the region. The program also created goodwill towards Finland and Finnish companies.

"I look forward to continuing the good cooperation with Finpro in Myanmar, because Myanmar is still a bit disconnected from the outside world. Not so long ago a SIM cost about 1000 dollars in Myanmar but now the country has up-to-date networks, so things are changing," he says.