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Myanmar Citizens’ Digital Resilience: Three New Studies

In post-coup Myanmar, people continue to face repressive tactics in their daily lives. A new Foundation-supported research series unpacks the digital challenges they’re tackling.

More than 20 Myanmar researchers are leading small investigations into key social, political and economic challenges in their country. Many of these researchers are young and emerging, hailing from both inside the country and the diaspora. And they’ll be sharing their valuable insights over the next two years under the Knowledge for Democracy Myanmar (K4DM) banner of Canada’s International Development Research Center (IDRC). 

The first three studies in this series are available now:

Dangerous Channels explores how online misinformation and hate speech distort Myanmar’s social and political landscape. This Intellectum Research Consortium study investigates how messaging on pro-regime Telegram channels undermines pro-democracy groups and ideas.
Policing Mobile Money studies how the military regime’s regulation of online financial systems impacts users and facilitates surveillance and repression. Authors Bradley, Gar and Vox (using pseudonyms) also explore technologies and practices that can help citizens bypass repressive tactics.
Crisis Under the Coup explores gender-based violence against journalists and other women working in the media industry. The research group from Myanmar Women in Media looks at women’s experience, how they are responding, and the support and change that they need next.

These studies will soon be followed by three more—exploring challenges in online education for Myanmar youth. In all, at least 20 papers will be published in 2024-2025. Several of the authors will discuss their work at K4DM’s upcoming Knowledge Marketplace 2024 in Chiang Mai (July 29-31).

Growing our research focus

For more than a decade, The SecDev Foundation has helped at-risk populations strengthen their resilience to digital threats. Globally, that has meant everything from awareness campaigns and digital-safety training to organizational audits and emergency response. In Myanmar, our priorities have included supporting the Burmese-language digital-safety course at www.digiseclab.org.

From the start, local knowledge has shaped our approaches in the field. Increasingly, though, empowering local knowledge creators is also becoming a deliberate focus. So we are pleased to collaborate with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in supporting this impressive group of Myanmar researchers. Of course, our first priority has been to see personal digital-safety best practices baked directly into their efforts.

On an entirely different front, the Foundation is also partnering with IDRC in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Following years of frontline work there, our Salam@ team is convening research on digital violence against women (DVAW). Over the last year, local researchers have published 20+ studies of DVAW in 16 countries. This work—and the community of researchers forming around it—will support crucial advocacy and support for women on the road ahead.

These two research initiatives—in Myanmar and the MENA region—share some important common threads. Both focus on research produced by and for vulnerable groups. Both are providing younger and emerging researchers with space to develop their craft and their interests. And both represent opportunities to to foster local research cultures that will outlive any direct role we can play.