Stockholm — Amazon Connection - a digital inclusion program initiated by Telefonica Vivo Foundation and Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) - has won the 2013 Global Mobile Award for Best Mobile Product, Initiative or Service for Emerging Markets.
In 2009, Vivo and Ericsson - in collaboration with Brazilian non-governmental agency Saúde & Alegria - initiated a project to enable communications and improved access to health, education and economic growth in a remote part of the world. The technology and expertise in the community eventually led to expanding applications, raising the spirit of entrepreneurship and possibility for employment.
A survey conducted by an independent party, the Agency for Support of Entrepreneurs and Small Businessmen, finds that 92% of respondents believe that mobile telephony and internet services have played a major role in the development of the region. 53% of respondents believe that telephony services contributed to the creation of companies and jobs.
The first radio base station was installed in 2009 in the town of Belterra, Pará, Brazil. As planned, the base station provided an initial 20,000 people with 3G voice and data services in an area that previously had no mobile connectivity. This in itself was a remarkable feat, but technicians noticed that something unexpected was happening: the nearby Tapajós River was acting like a mirror, magnifying the range of the 3G signal. This allowed the Abaré Hospital boat, which navigates along the river, to be connected via broadband in 2010.
The expansion to Suruacá, on the other bank of the Tapajós River was unique in the deployment itself, which was difficult due to dense vegetation, lack of infrastructure and unpredictable weather. There was no source of energy in the village so Ericsson built an innovative hybrid system (solar and wind), which enabled a fully functional mobile network in the Amazon.
During the four years of the project, the public-private partnership supported the creation of a number of initiatives improving conditions for people in the local communities.
For example, Saúde & Alegria uses the Abaré, a large boat, to provide health-care services to the inhabitants of the more than 70 communities along the Tapajós River. Telefonica Vivo installed an antenna on the boat, ensuring that the 3G signal that was being magnified naturally by the river would be boosted even further. As a result, anyone aboard the Abaré now has access to a reliable mobile broadband connection. Doctors aboard the Abaré can consult with their peers around the world and send X-rays and other images for expert diagnoses. As a result, thousands of people who live in the Amazon now benefit from high-quality medical care.
In addition, the Abaré is using its mobile broadband connection to offer the Tapajós River communities educational training programs with the support of local universities.
In 2011, connectivity was extended to the community of Suruacá, and Connect To Learn, Ericsson's program that brings cloud-based education to secondary schools, was launched.
Françoise Trapenard, president of Telefonica Vivo Foundation, said: "The region, until signal arrival of Vivo, lived the challenges of isolation imposed by the geography of the Amazon region, is now a place for people connected. The original motivation of this project had a focus on education and health in order to provide, through new connectivity technologies, learning opportunities for young riparian and streamline the activities of medical care to the population carried aboard the hospital ship Abaré."
Caetano Scannavino, Coordinator and Founder of Saúde Alegria, said: "Most of the world thinks that the Amazon is just the jungle, with trees and rivers - that it's like a vacuum. But the Brazilian Amazon is 25 million people. My dream is that all communities in the whole of the Amazon can be connected because the world should know the ability, the beauty, and the intelligence of these people."
Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Ericsson, says: "We're honored that the GSMA has recognized our efforts but even more honored to have been part of something as powerful as Amazon Connection. This is what technology for good is all about."
Recognizing the important social benefits of the hospital boat initiative, the Brazilian government has initiated a program to launch 100 additional hospital boats. Funding for 32 of them has already been approved, ensuring they will be operational in the near future.