Google flings Schmidt at Myanmar

Google exec Eric Schmidt is continuing his Axis of Evil world tour and collected his badge to become the first high-profile tech company executive to visit Myanmar.

Schmidt, who recently visited North Korea, apparently sees money to be made in Myanmar after reforms in that country which prompted Western nations to ease sanctions following decades of military dictatorship.

Schmidt has also visited Seoul, Taipei and Beijing and is to speak at a technology and communications park and meet with government officials.

Myanmar’s military stepped aside and a quasi-civilian government was installed in 2011. There have been waves of political and economic reforms which Schmidt hopes to surf for extra business.

According to Reuters, the country formerly known as Burma is an untapped market for most technology companies with mobile penetration in the country of 60 million of just five to ten percent.

While Schmidt’s visit to Pyongyang, which Google described as a “personal” trip, was controversial, this trip apparently falls within his mandate as executive chairman.

Myanmar’s planned modernisation of telecoms infrastructure and expected boom in mobile phone usage will pave the way for the entry of companies such as Google.

In February the US Treasury Department issued a general licence for four of Myanmar’s biggest banks, two of which are owned by tycoons associated with the former junta.

Many leading firms in Myanmar are still controlled by businessmen subject to sanctions, but Western companies are starting to move in after the implementation of a new foreign investment law.

By the way, Schmidt has a new book coming out. Dubbed The New Digital Age, it’s due to hit bookshelves in April, was co-authored with Google Ideas chief Jared Cohen.

The Wall Street Journal, which got its paws on a copy, said that the authors criticise China for being an enthusiastic “filterer of information” and a “prolific” hacker of foreign companies.