A new technology hub called SuleTech was opened recently at the heart of downtown Yangon with an aim to become a centre for the local tech community.
SuleTech will be used to foster the “technology ecosystem” in Myanmar, and will have offices, co-working facilities, trainings rooms, a UI/UX lab, and a program of workshops, trainings and events, its founders said.
The hub has 6,000 square foot space with 360-degree views of Yangon located on the top floor of the Mac Tower building.
SuleTech was created by Ideabox, a community of entrepreneurs that runs events and offers incubation and acceleration services, and Phandeeyar. Throughout 2014 Ideabox organised activities such as the App Bus Tours, Startup Boot Camp and the Khan Academy Translatathons.
Ideabox Co-Founder U Kaung Sitt said: “We think the tech ecosystem would really benefit from having an easily accessible venue that is home to lots of startups, which the community can use to access resources and hold events, trainings and other activities.”
Phandeeyar is a new “innovation lab” designed to support social innovation and “civic tech”. It aims to bring the tech community together with civil society organisations and independent media to build the digital tools, platforms and content to accelerate development.
Phandeeyar, which means “creation place” in Myanmar, was born out of Code for Change Myanmar, another tech initiative which ran the country’s first-ever hackathons.
“At the hackathons we saw very clearly the potential for social innovation in Myanmar. When you combine the tech community with civil society organisations, social enterprises and independent media you get new solutions to important challenges,” Phandeeyar and Code for Change Myanmar Founder David Madden said.
“We want to create a permanent space where that kind of creative problem solving can happen 24/7,” he added.
U Kaung Sitt said SuleTech is not only for techies but anyone with innovative ideas.
“Innovation requires new ideas and fresh perspectives. So everyone is welcome here. We want this to be home for anyone who is interested in doing anything cool with technology,” he said.
SuleTech will serve as the headquarters for Ideabox and Phandeeyar, but it also has room available for other tech companies, start-ups and freelancers, as well as events, training and workshops, the founders said.
U Htoo Myint Naung, chairman of Mobile Monday Yangon, a monthly industry event, and CEO of local tech firm Technomation, said: “Office and event space is a real challenge for the startup community in Yangon. It’s great to have a permanent home for Mobile Monday and I hope that other startups and event organisers will make SuleTech their home too.”
In addition to co-working facilities and events, there will also be education and training programs at SuleTech.
Through the USAID-funded ADEPT program, American tech giant HP is sponsoring a state-of-the-art computer lab in SuleTech, which will be used to expand the pool of technology talent and increase digital literacy in Yangon.
The lab will also serve as an HP LIFE (Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs) Center. Tech startups and other micro, small and medium enterprises will be able to learn critical IT and business skills through HP’s free online training program, HP LIFE e-Learning, which will be available at the Center.
Besides, Nokia Networks will be utilising its telecommunications infrastructure expertise to ensure that SuleTech has a reliable mobile broadband connection as slow mobile broadband is deemed as one of the major challenges facing Myanmar’s tech industry.
SuleTech will also offer its members connections with a broader tech community in Southeast Asia. It has reciprocal relationships with two other major ICT Hubs in the region – Singapore’s StarHub i3 and Indonesia’s Ideabox Indosat.
SuleTech members will be able to access StarHub i3 and Indosat’s network of mentors, investors and companies, as well as use their facilities when they are travelling.