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Inmarsat Hopes Governments Take Note of Brazil Project

By | July 16, 2007

      Inmarsat has forged a partnership to bring satellite-based communications solutions to 1,000 islands off the coast of Brazil, hoping to showcase the impact its Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) technology can have on remote communities.
      Inmarsat announced July 5 it was teaming up with Instituto Ilhas do Brasil (the Institute of Brazilian Islands) to bring communications to some of Brazil’s most isolated offshore communities. Initially, expeditions supported by the Institute will use BGAN to share images and data gathered about the biodiversity of the islands. The first fieldwork is scheduled to begin in August.
      “We see this project as a pilot — as a chance for the Institute to try out the BGAN service during 2007,” Svante Hjorth, Inmarsat’s vice president for the Americas, said. “If it works out fine and meets their needs as we expect, we will further explore the partnership for next year when there will be more data collected.”
      Hjorth sees the project as a “unique deployment of BGAN because the project is facilitating the collection of important data from remote islands. These are islands that have not necessarily been investigated before, and we are happy to support the scientific work that will discover and protect these remote and largely untouched resources. Since the [Institute is] working on those remote places, communication needs are key.”
      BGAN will be bringing cutting-edge technology to islands that largely have not been explored by scientists and help make better quality information available to international researchers.
      “Using satellite technology, we can improve the implementation of a database devoted to the biodiversity of Brazilian coastal and oceanic islands,” Alexandre Castro, the Institute’s general director, said. “That Brazilian island database, linked with a global registry such as the Global Island Network, will offer to national and international researchers and conservationists full access to this valuable content to increase conservation action. We will be able to send in new information and images collected in the field much quicker to our colleagues and students at university so they can start to produce reports, etc.”
      The capability also is expected to improve the quality of life for many inhabitants by providing information that can have a social and environmental impact on the islands, said Castro. “The islanders will have access to one of the world’s most modern communication technologies, breaking through their isolation,” he said. “It will not interfere in their culture or values but provide a positive approach to promoting digital inclusion of their local communities. With issues such as climate change we can use satellite technologies to offer training and environmental education to local communities. This could then change some attitudes to promote the better use of natural resources. Also, communities will be able to assist in developing and implementing a disaster alert system project in the near future in order to improve safety in extreme weather conditions.”
      Inmarsat did not undertake the project for its revenue potential, but Hjorth hopes the initiative will lead to similar projects for Inmarsat as well as more revenue-generating deals by demonstrating to other governments in the region the positive impact of satellite technology.
      “It could be an eye-opener to governments when they are discussing what is called digital inclusion, which is trying to network remote locations and bring connectivity and make accessibility possible in remote places,” Hjorth said. “There are projects around digital inclusion, and this could obviously be a showcase for that, and show that our technology could be a strong method for delivering on these aims.”
      Ultimately the success of the project might be judged by its ability to reach beyond the 1,000 islands. “For the project itself, we hope the Institute will use BGAN as much as possible for collecting, transferring and sharing data from the teams in the field to their headquarters and their central database. The challenge in the long run would be to influence governments around the world to actually sponsor these kinds of projects and include access to communication solutions in their policies for remote populations and natural resources. This is a bit of a showcase that it could work. It could have very positive social effect on the islands and, we hope, beyond.”
      Castro also believes the project could have a global impact.  “All of humanity is currently faced with enormous challenges resulting from global climate change, and global warming is a real risk to coastal regions and islands,” he said. “Many Brazilian islanders are exposed to all kinds of hazards. The governments have a legal responsibility to aid in these situations. The [Institute] believes that offering communication access to the thousands of people who inhabit Brazil’s coastal oceanic island communities is not a matter of privilege but is in fact a matter of necessity. Our goal is to bring this problem to the attention of Brazilian authorities by relaying a preliminary telecom solution to break the isolation of these communities."

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