The Facebook-Loving Farmers of Myanmar

Excerpt from this fascinating article, a “dispatch from an Internet revolution in progress”. I love articles that show how mobile and digital are evolving in the emerging markets – – it’s not just the affluent countries and tech-centric cities!

For six weeks last October and November, just before Myanmar held its landmark elections, I joined a team of design ethnographers in the countryside interviewing forty farmers about smartphones… Myanmar is especially fertile ground for this kind of work. Until recently the military junta had imposed artificial caps on access to smartphones and SIM cards. Many of the farmers we spoke with had never owned a smartphone before. The villages were often without running water or electricity, but they buzzed with newly minted cell towers and strong 3G signals. For them, everything networked was new.

…We ask about apps. One nephew says he uses Viber to text with friends and family who are outside of the village. But if he can meet in person, he goes to talk in person. He says he uses his smartphone mainly for phone calls, which are still simpler and faster than texting.

The lead farmer mentions Facebook and the others fall in. Facebook! Yes yes! They use Facebook every day. They feel that spending data on Facebook is a worthwhile investment. In fact, check this out, says one nephew. He wants to show us a Facebook post. He’s thrilled. Earlier, he said to us, lelthamar asit—Like any real farmer, I know the land. And so we wonder: What will he show us? A new farming technique? News about the upcoming election? Analysis on its impact on farmers? He shows us: A cow with five legs. He laughs. Amazing, no? Have you ever seen such a thing?