In one of the most remote inhabited places on Earth, the Amazon, Intel Corporation has created a wireless, high-speed Internet network for residents to access vast resources of medical, educational and commercial knowledge through computers. The project is part of the Intel World Ahead Program, an initiative in which Intel plans to invest more than $US 1 billion globally over the next 5 years to accelerate access to computers, the Internet and technology for people in developing communities.
The digital transformation of Parintins, a town on an island in the Amazon River, is expected to improve the healthcare and education of its 114,000 residents and advance the lives of future generations.
"Technology has expanded what is possible in Parintins," said Intel Chairman Craig Barrett at a dedication ceremony today in the Amazon rain forest. "It is now a place where wireless broadband links to the Internet bring the expertise of specialists, sophisticated medical imaging and the world's libraries to a community reachable only by airplane or boat."
Working with the Brazilian government and business and education officials, Intel and its collaborators installed a state-of-the-art WiMAX network for a primary healthcare center, two public schools, a community center and Amazon University. Intel also donated and installed telemedicine equipment at the health center and computer labs at the two schools where students and teachers can regularly connect to the outside world for the first time.
"We've been blessed with this project," said Parintins Mayor Frank Bi Garcia. "We're really isolated and don't have the conditions to receive the Internet with cables. So we're receiving it wireless, from antennas, from satellite access to wireless Internet is a great pleasure for us. This project will prepare this generation for the future."
Intel led the effort in the island city on the Amazon River with support from Cisco, CPqD, Embratel, Proxim and the Bradesco Foundation, as well as Amazonas State University, Amazonas Federal University and Sao Paulo University.
Intel aims to extend wireless PC access to millions of citizens in Latin America and train more than a million teachers about the effective use of technology in the classroom. In Parintins, Intel has already trained 24 teachers through its education initiatives. The Intel Teach Program teaches teachers how to use technology to improve the way students learn. The Intel Learn Program provides job-readiness skills to underprivileged students between the ages of 10 and 18.
"The student, from the moment he gets in touch with other people, other cultures, with other information beyond the borders of his country, he gets a lot of benefits," said Goncala Do Nacimento Pinto Filha, a fifth grade teacher in Parintins. "The community can keep up with evolution. It can feel equal in social terms as well."
As part of Parintins' digital makeover, Amazon University is starting a telemedicine program developed jointly with the medical school of Sao Paulo University. The new capabilities -- including real-time, video interaction between specialists and patients hundreds of miles apart -- give the town's 32 doctors faster and greater access to the latest medical data or second opinions.
"Telemedicine for us is like a new weapon, a weapon from the future," said Dr. Gregorz Maciejewski, municipal secretary of Health in Parintins.
Doctors say telemedicine will also help in preventing the spread of such diseases as AIDS and leprosy.
The solution in the Amazon is to be followed by others planned by Intel for isolated communities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where electricity and telecommunications are unreliable or antiquated and transportation is difficult.
The wireless infrastructure includes short-range Wi-Fi radio transmissions and WiMAX, which has an extended transmitting range of up to 30 miles. WiMAX is designed to be a less costly and more efficient way to build wireless computing and communications networks for broadband access.