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Most farmers grab data on their scratch cards in 1,000 or 3,000 or 5,000 Kyat chunks. The lead farmer mentions Facebook and the others fall in. They sell for about 0 and pump roughly fifty liters of water per minute. But the residual effect of that instability is a lack of incumbency and traditional infrastructure. If you buy in bulk (although almost nobody does) you can get 2GB of data for 11,900 Myanmar Kyat or about .20 USD. He says he uses his smartphone mainly for phone calls, which are still simpler and faster than texting. And Proximity’s solar pumps — launched just last October after years of research and development as part of a joint project with students at the Stanford d.school — are not only beautifully engineered and designed, they’re among the most affordable in the world. The instability significantly increases risk for outside investors and companies. In ethnographic-design research everyone gets a code name. logo and sits with us on stools in the middle of the shop. Myanmar is especially fertile ground for this kind of work. His 6-year-old daughter beams at us from the corner, her grandmother stands behind with a stern, suspicious look on her face. Farmer Number Ten points to a car battery hanging in the corner onto which familiar USB wires are spliced. Everything else is icing on the cake.* * *Myanmar is a country of farmers. Because of the military junta, mobile SIM cards in Myanmar have historically been prohibitively expensive. Until recently the military junta had imposed artificial caps on access to smartphones and SIM cards. They hand us bottles of water and I feel a relief that maybe our interview request isn’t quite as burdensome as imagined. One Samsung, one from a mysterious company called “Honor,” two Huawei. Fifty three million citizens, approximately thirty million of whom are farmers. In 2014, the cost of a SIM card dropped from about ,000 USD to 0 USD and then once again, to

Most farmers grab data on their scratch cards in 1,000 or 3,000 or 5,000 Kyat chunks. The lead farmer mentions Facebook and the others fall in. They sell for about $350 and pump roughly fifty liters of water per minute. But the residual effect of that instability is a lack of incumbency and traditional infrastructure. If you buy in bulk (although almost nobody does) you can get 2GB of data for 11,900 Myanmar Kyat or about $9.20 USD. He says he uses his smartphone mainly for phone calls, which are still simpler and faster than texting. And Proximity’s solar pumps — launched just last October after years of research and development as part of a joint project with students at the Stanford d.school — are not only beautifully engineered and designed, they’re among the most affordable in the world. The instability significantly increases risk for outside investors and companies. In ethnographic-design research everyone gets a code name. logo and sits with us on stools in the middle of the shop. Myanmar is especially fertile ground for this kind of work. His 6-year-old daughter beams at us from the corner, her grandmother stands behind with a stern, suspicious look on her face. Farmer Number Ten points to a car battery hanging in the corner onto which familiar USB wires are spliced. Everything else is icing on the cake.* * *Myanmar is a country of farmers. Because of the military junta, mobile SIM cards in Myanmar have historically been prohibitively expensive. Until recently the military junta had imposed artificial caps on access to smartphones and SIM cards. They hand us bottles of water and I feel a relief that maybe our interview request isn’t quite as burdensome as imagined. One Samsung, one from a mysterious company called “Honor,” two Huawei. Fifty three million citizens, approximately thirty million of whom are farmers. In 2014, the cost of a SIM card dropped from about $2,000 USD to $200 USD and then once again, to $1.50 USD. A Subscriber Identity Module, or SIM card, is a bit of silicon inscribed with a unique and encrypted serial number. 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. That Studio D is so easily able to line up a few dozen interviews reveals the remarkable trust that Proximity has spent years building up. He says he chats with a few friends on Facebook but mainly people he doesn’t know. He tells us his brother installed the app for him, and set up his account. He’s excited but worries about the effect on the price of paddy. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has tremendous presence in these rural areas. A design ethnographer is someone who studies how culture and technology interact. The value of their work is not just in impacting farmers, but connecting them to the world at large. We see and hear trucks with jerry-rigged amps and speakers blasting political songs at an almost constant clip.

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Most farmers grab data on their scratch cards in 1,000 or 3,000 or 5,000 Kyat chunks. The lead farmer mentions Facebook and the others fall in. They sell for about $350 and pump roughly fifty liters of water per minute. But the residual effect of that instability is a lack of incumbency and traditional infrastructure.

.50 USD. A Subscriber Identity Module, or SIM card, is a bit of silicon inscribed with a unique and encrypted serial number. 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. That Studio D is so easily able to line up a few dozen interviews reveals the remarkable trust that Proximity has spent years building up. He says he chats with a few friends on Facebook but mainly people he doesn’t know. He tells us his brother installed the app for him, and set up his account. He’s excited but worries about the effect on the price of paddy. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has tremendous presence in these rural areas. A design ethnographer is someone who studies how culture and technology interact. The value of their work is not just in impacting farmers, but connecting them to the world at large. We see and hear trucks with jerry-rigged amps and speakers blasting political songs at an almost constant clip.

* * *Two Myanmar men are dancing in the grass, bringing down long pieces of bamboo hard against the ground. The 3G connection in our rural pop-up studio is strong. There is no explicit brand loyalty amongst these farmers. The Real Feel™ is a billion degrees in the sun today. If critical news can live inside of Twitter, in a fundamentally less bandwidth intensive and a simpler model than even Facebook, then the popular interest may shift. Kyaukse is formidable, located in the Mandalay region of the country, with a population of around 700,000 and a number of photo studios, mobile-phone shops, dozens of restaurants and guest houses. But my colleague is disarming in a humble, honest way. The city has a bustling and energetic, almost frantic, dusty southeast Asian vibe. He’s not salt-of-the-earth like some of our other crew members (he’s been to college, has never worked a farm) but he’s present and genuine.

Earlier, he said to us, lelthamar asit—Like any real farmer, I know the land. And the fourth floor performs quality-control checks on water storage sacks that balloon up like carnival attractions. Everyone installs apps using Zapya, an app-sharing app. And these emergent economies have one colossal advantage over the entrenched and techno-gluttonous west: There is little incumbency. He stands in the middle of the shop with a cigarette dangling from his mouth and stares at the four female employees. He’s wearing Vietnam War era American infantry helmet, high-waist khakis, a leather jacket. I whisper to my joyful colleague, Uhm, hey man, you gotta tell him to wait outside. She points to an empty booth along the wall, shrugs, says, Day off.

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