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Cisco to open tech training academies in Myanmar

After joining Google, HP, Intel, and Microsoft in a delegation to the Southeast Asian country, Cisco pledges to set up training centers to help teach locals tech skills.

Myanmar is one of the most closed off and least-connected countries in the world -- but with a newly opening government, this is rapidly changing.

Cisco announced today that it is setting up two technology training centers in the Southeast Asian country, according to USAID. The centers, dubbed Networking Academies, will be aimed at teaching residents tech skills.

This announcement comes after Cisco executives joined USAID, Google, HP, Intel, and Microsoft in a tech delegation visit to the country.

"We knew that in order for everyone in the country to benefit from a digital economy and for the government to develop the know-how to navigate the technology, Internet was key," USAID chief innovation officer Maura O'Neill said in a statement. "Fortunately the companies involved in the tech delegation have experience developing and rolling out projects in digital literacy and business skill training in other countries on a massive scale."

While the delegation was geared toward technology education in the country, many companies also seem to have commercial interests in Myanmar.

Cell phone use in Myanmar is lower than it is in North Korea, according to the Associated Press. This is mainly due to the prohibitively expensive cost of SIM cards, which go for $300 to $500. However, with new government reforms to the telecommunications sector these prices will likely go down. Apparently, 91 international companies have now bid on two Myanmar telecom licenses.

A heavy-handed military regime has ruled over the Southeast Asian country for decades. Despite new reforms, the country is just in the beginning phases of change. In the past, Myanmar has regularly been listed as one of the world's "Enemies of the Internet" with the government periodically blocking access to the Web, Gmail, and other e-mail services.

Just last month, Google warned a handful of journalists that the Myanmar government was spying on them via e-mail. Government officials have denied these allegations, however.

Myanmar and the U.S. just recently renewed ties after decades of sanctions. According to the Associated Press, USAID resumed work in the country in November. Besides forging new technology partnerships, the government agency is also working on health, food security, democracy, human rights, and rule of law programs.