Dan Simmons reports on how a mobile network is changing Amazonian lives
Nearly 50 million people in Brazil are already accessing 3G and, for those in rural areas surrounding the Amazon rainforest, it is proving to be a real life changer.
For many, their only link with the rest of the country before 3G was a mail boat.
Now Extreme Project Brazil plans to open a line of communication between the area and the rest of the world.
Ericsson, which has donated the two masts for this project, believes that with expansion, the internet could allow some of the 25 million Amazonians who cannot yet get online to get an education through the net.
Local charity Health and Happiness says rather than changing traditions or cultures, mobile broadband allows Amazonians to show the world who they are, gain pride from how others see them and learn ways to make their lives better.
Around 170 villages in and around the Amazon jungle now have GSM and 3G connectivity. This is the first time the jungle has had mobile reception of this type.
Behind the scenes look, filmed with a smart phone, at reaction to introducing 3G
Laptops have been donated to schools which connect to the internet via the 3G signal. They use a bespoke operating system running apps off servers in the cloud, meaning that most information is held on central computer servers rather than individual hard disks.
"[It] is something we have developed with our colleagues in India so we are trying to remove the complexity of other systems and provide the cloud computing for education systems," said Sergio Lopez Ramos, project manager at Ericsson Connect to Learn.
And 3G has already had a bigger impact in the area beyond business and education.
Amazon resident Joa told the story of a friend bitten by a scorpion who managed to raise the alert using a mobile.
"The man was spitting blood," he said.
An emergency speedboat reached him just in time.
Around 5,000 people in the local town of Belterra have had "digital inclusion" training. Most had used the network for health or medical emergencies at least once in the past 12 months, a study suggested.
So it seems the 3G network has not only become the lifeblood for business, it has actually saved lives.
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