Until mid-2011, Myanmar was very much closed off from the rest of the world. As the government continues to liberalize media and open up telecommunications markets, mobile phone use is skyrocketing across many parts of Myanmar. The country is on pace to make a giant leap in the digital divide, with mobile penetration rates expected to jump from about 4% in 2014 to 80% by the end of this year. For many in Myanmar, using a mobile phone marks their first experience with the internet and digital technology, not to mention having a wealth of information at their fingertips, which is a far cry from the once heavily censored and government-controlled media environment.
In a country that is essentially going from 0 to 60 in the information age, how do the millions of people coming online via their newly-acquired smartphones learn about all the internet has to offer, that the internet is more than just Facebook? And where and how will they develop the skills to use these technologies and decipher the quality of the information streaming in? One of the major components of our project, Information Strategies for Societies in Transition, is the development and delivery of a mobile-centric digital information literacy curriculum. This curriculum, developed by TASCHA and our partners in Myanmar, aims to help the Burmese develop digital and information literacy in a mobile-centric (in many cases, mobile-only) setting.
Earlier this year, two of the project’s researchers, Sheryl Day and Dan Arnaudo, went to Myanmar to pilot the digital information literacy curriculum, training library staff in Yangon and Mandalay. After refining the materials following the pilot, the curriculum was used in training sessions in May, training both our local research partners, as well as dozens of librarians. The curriculum has also been translated into Burmese, and the trainer librarians will go on to train other staff in their libraries, eventually cascading the training to library patrons as well.
The training sessions have been very well received, many of the participants said the training exceeded all of their expectations. All of the people who have been trained so far are very excited to train their colleagues and tell other people about it, as many noted that no one else is doing this in Myanmar at this time. Our partners in Myanmar are now meeting with other organizations, educational institutions, and government officials to see how this training can be expanded to reach even more people.
TASCHA will soon be releasing the mobile-centric digital information literacy curriculum materials so others can use, adapt, remix, translate, and share. While these materials were developed with Myanmar in mind, the modules offer flexibility to add locally-relevant information and adapt for local contexts and conditions. Check back soon, as we’ll post them as soon as they are ready!