Despite being one of the poorest countries in Asia, 15-year licenses went for $500 million dollars and the winners had to pledge to build out infrastructure to cover 90% of the population in a country of 60 million people spread across the jungles of southeast Asia.

Why did entering Myanmar seem so attractive that over a dozen international mobile operators competed for these licenses? It likely had to do with the fact that Myanmar dispensed with the typical protectionist requirements that can stifle interest such as requiring domestic partners or putting caps on foreign ownership. Outside companies felt like they could come in and operate without being loaded down with requirements that might decrease their profit potential. The result is a rapid growth of Internet access that is having profound impacts on life in Myanmar from empowering women to connecting up libraries. For an example closer to home, Cuba might consider the example of Mexico, where President Nieto’s telecom reforms have eliminated caps on foreign ownership in a bid to increase competition and reduce prices.


In the past two years, there have been some modest steps towards greater access to the Internet in Cuba. These have included the activation of the ALBA-1 submarine cableopening of Internet access points, and the introduction of mobile Internet service. However, access to the Internet is still limited for a variety of reasons including price of service and outdated technology.

Cuba’s pledge to increase Internet access for their citizens is a very hopeful sign and appears to be a departure from its warning last year that the activation of ALBA-1 “will not mean that possibilities for access will automatically multiply.” We will have to wait and see what precisely this pledge entails to really understand its implications for the future. However, there is reason to believe that impressive growth being experienced currently in Myanmar could be replicated in Cuba—but it would require a capitalist approach for one of the world’s last remaining communist countries. In Cuba, such a mind shift would be… revolutionary.

This post originally appeared at Dyn.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.