Imagine Spending a Day Without Data!
MCRB, together with its partners from the Myanmar Digital Rights Forum, have launched the countdown to “Myanmar Internet Blackout Day 101”. This will take place on Monday 30 September to show solidarity with over 600,000 people in Rakhine who will have had no access to the internet for 101 days. On that day, MCRB encourages anyone who cares about internet access, whether from business, government or non-government organisations and individuals to turn off their mobile data, turn off their wifi, put an out-of-office message on email, and close Facebook, and see what it feels like. Alternatively, tell us why you can’t survive one day without internet access, let alone 101.
Why are we organising Myanmar Internet Blackout Day 101?
On 20 June, the government issued an unprecedented order to all mobile phone operators in Myanmar – MPT, Mytel, Ooredoo and Telenor - to impose a shutdown of the mobile internet in these townships, using the Article 77 of the 2013 Telecommunications Law for the first time.
The order resulted in the shutdown of mobile internet access since 10:00 PM on 21 June in eight townships in Rakhine (Ponnagyun, Rathedaung, Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Minbya, Myebon, Maungdaw, and Buthidaung) as well as Paletwa Township in Chin State, affecting over a million people.
On the night of 31 August, the government lifted the restriction in five townships, but the complete shutdown still remains in four townships - Ponnagyun, Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, and Minbya .
Although access to the internet has only recently arrived in rural Myanmar through mobile phones, it has become widely used in daily life for a variety of purposes including health, education, employment, agriculture and all forms of business, and the sharing of information and news. Internet shutdowns, even during normal circumstances, therefore impacts significantly on a number of human rights, including safety, livelihood, health, education, family life, information and freedom of expression.
In conflict areas such as northern and central Rakhine State, an internet shutdown has even more serious consequences for safety. Local residents need access to the internet to obtain help, emergency services and humanitarian aid, to facilitating contact between displaced families, and to share information about the situation on the ground.
How to take part in Myanmar Internet Blackout Day 101
Whether you are based in Myanmar or overseas, we would like to encourage you to show solidarity with over 600,000 people in Mrauk U, Minbya, Kyauktaw and Ponnagyun townships by participating in Myanmar Internet Blackout Day 101 on 30th September. We ask you to:
Between now and 29 September
Discuss with your colleagues how you make use of the internet on a daily basis for your organisation or business.
Agree with them and your managers whether or not you, or your whole organisation, could exist without data for a day.
On 25/26 September
If you plan to turn off your data, you may want to advise key contacts in advance during working hours so that they can, if necessary, send you information before 30 September.
On 29 September
set up an email “auto-response” message to run between 00.00 and 23.59 on 30 September by copying and pasting the following message in your email’s auto-respond box – “On 30 September, I am participating in Myanmar Internet Blackout Day 101 to show solidarity with over 600,000 people in Rakhine States who have gone for 101 days without access to the internet, on the orders of the Myanmar government. As part of this campaign, I will turn off data on my mobile phone and internet for 24 hours. In case of urgency, please call my phone or send me an SMS.”
Switch the profile on your Facebook to the image for Myanmar Internet Blackout Day 101, and/or put a message on your website or on the door to your office. The folder with the graphics can be accessed at this link
At 00.00 on 30 September (or the night before)
Switch off for 24 hours between 00.00 and 23.59 on 30th September (mobile data of your phone your organisation’s internet/wifi)
Record the impact this interruption to the internet is having to your daily life.
Between 1st and 3rd October
Provide feedback on your experience of living without internet for 24 hours by email to . Please list the social, economic, professional and other impacts, putting an economic value to them if this is relevant, e.g. business opportunities foregone. Please state in your email whether we can use this information in follow-up publicity and whether your name can be used.
What is the government shutdown?
Although Article 77 refers to ‘temporary’ suspension, the order on 21 June was open-ended, did not explain the public interest reason for the shutdown, and has now been in place for over two months for four of the townships without any indication of when it will be lifted. The other five townships were restored online on 1 September after over two months in data darkness.
Those affected in the original nine townships, including their elected representatives, have tried to draw the Government’s attention to the impact which network shutdown is having on their daily lives. For example, access to mobile money services for remittances from overseas family members is blocked, small businesses, such as traders, are unable to conduct business easily, and information has been cut off for those seeking work or education. As services – including e-government – go further on line, those who are denied access to the internet will be further discriminated against, increasing inequality.
Who are we?
Our four organisations, Free Expression Myanmar (FEM), Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB), Myan ICT for Development Organisation (MIDO) and Phandeeyar have worked together over the last three years to organise three Myanmar Digital Rights Forums in 2016, 2018, and 2019. These forums have brought together business, government, and civil society organisations to discuss how Myanmar’s transition to the “4th Industrial revolution” can be achieved in ways which protect, respect and enhance the enjoyment of human rights.
Participants at the Myanmar Digital Rights Forums – and globally including through the UN – have consistently stressed the importance of universal access to the internet as a fundamental enabler of a wide range of human rights. For this reason, our four organisations, together with other local organisations issued a joint statement on internet shutdown in English and Myanmar on 24th June calling for all restrictions on internet access to be immediately and review of the telecommunications law to ensure not to restrict internet access anywhere in Myanmar in future.
We are concerned that the government's order under Article 77 has set a precedent for further shutdowns in situations where the government identifies so-called ‘instability’. But this is something which should concern all internet users, even if they are not directly affected by the current ban.
What if you are sympathetic but unable to participate?
Even if you feel the impact of cutting off the internet for 24 hours would be too significant for your company, livelihood, safety, or essential services you provide to others, you can still participate.
Please send an email to before 3rd October listing why continued daily access to the internet is essential to you, and why you were therefore unable to join the blackout.
We want the results of this campaign to raise awareness and understanding about the impacts of internet shutdown. We will use them in advocacy to the Government and other stakeholders to lift the current restrictions and refrain from restricting internet access in the future, in any part of the country.
Thank you very much for your support for getting the people of Northern Rakhine back online.
Internet shutdown was a human rights impact examined in MCRB’s September 2015 Sector-Wide Impact Assessment on Information and Communication Technology, and the issues raised and recommendations to government and business are included in this bilingual summary.