The arrival of phone and internet communications in remote Amazon providing widespread benefits
This week the BBC released a video showing the widespread benefits of providing a mobile phone signal to very remote communities in the Brazilian Amazon. The news story is focused on two tall mobile signal masts recently erected in the remote Amazon, in the Santarem region. Powered by wind and solar generated electricity, whose technology is integrated into the towers, the mobile signal now reaches around 170 communities which previously had to be delivered as written notes delivered via river boat by hand.
Funded by the telecoms company Ericsson as a demonstration project to show governments that telecommunications is inexpensive and can improve livelihoods for remote communities, the project had shown a much wider variety of benefits that might have been expected.
Firstly, it has already saved lives in medical emergencies. For instance, one man was recently bitten by a scorpion and would have died if his relatives had not been able to telephone for emergency medical help. The schools, too, have been making good use of access to educational information and videos online. Local producers, like one forest honey gatherer, are not just getting more orders now they have a phone, but they are able to match their supply to specific orders better and the honey can arrive fresher at its destination.
The new mobile phone and internet link has also enabled these communities to monitor their forests against illegal logging intrusions and to organize a rapid response when necessary. And there have been indirect benefits, too, such as the fact that medical researchers are more willing to travel to the area now that they are able to be there and yet stay in touch daily with their families who may be based in other parts of Brazil or, indeed, the world.
Even the key concern about impacts on local cultures have been calmed to a large extent since the internet has been utilized by the communities in ways that seem to be strengthening local cultures and traditions.
This could be good news for Asháninka communities working in the Peruvian Amazon with Cool Earth to protect their forests. These communities, too, are in the process of raising money to invest in a solar powered satellite internet connection for local schools, community use and as a tool for rainforest conservation in the hands of Tsimi (the Asháninka Bioclimatic Association).
Sources: BBC and Cool Earth