The Institute - March 2020 - TI-9

communities don't have the money to
pay for Internet access.
"Bolivia has made great strides in providing Internet connectivity to its rural areas,"
Murillo says. "But if a person cannot pay
for it, it's as though the service doesn't
exist. In 10 years, this lack of access will
translate into a lack of opportunities, an
educational gap, a socioeconomic gap,
and few prospects for students to pursue
a career in science, technology, engineering, or math. The repercussions are dire."
The 10 villages in CamachoNet's next
phase are on the outskirts of Lake Titicaca,
about a six-hour drive from La Paz, Bolivia's
capital. The volunteers are leading the
building of more than 10 towers. Four of
the towers will be approximately 40 meters
high and act as repeaters. The team plans
to install point-to-point links that span
20 kilometers. Through Wi-Fi hotspots
in main squares and a community kiosk,
schoolchildren and the elderly will be able
to conduct voice and video chats, Murillo
says. They also will be able to access material from a local small data center.
"This will literally put the information
and communication at the users' fingertips," Murillo says.
The villages' health centers and medical posts will be connected to a major
hospital, he adds.
The government outfitted many of
Camacho Province's health centers
with telemedicine equipment, he says,
but much of the equipment sits unused
because there are no funds to purchase
Internet connectivity.
"When an extreme health emergency
arises, the inexperienced doctors and
nurses at these centers lack the ability to
consult remotely with specialists at the
country's main hospitals," he says.


As a project lead, Murillo juggles a lot
of responsibilities. He meets with community leaders to identify where the
needs for the network are greatest and to

determine the types of services required.
He coaches volunteers so the work can
be carried out in parallel in different locations. And he keeps track of where money
is being spent.
He also recruits volunteers-which he
says is challenging.
"It requires a lot of work to explain to
students and new volunteers what the

A sensor station designed and installed
by IEEE volunteers. Sixty of these stations
will be built to monitor changes in the
climate in remote Bolivian villages.

me firsthand experience on the needs of
rural areas."
His research has been published extensively in IEEE journals and can be found
in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.


Murillo often gets asked why IEEE is
involved with humanitarian technology
projects at all. Shouldn't it be focused on
developing technologies? His response is
that IEEE, an international organization
with chapters all over the globe, has the
power to change the world.
IEEE's "secret weapon is the members,"
he says. "There's no other organization
that has the knowledge and the resources
to do what we can do."
And, he notes, IEEE members want
to get involved with humanitarian technology projects. In 2012 and 2013, for
example, students from a number of
countries spent their own money to travel
to Bolivia and Peru to help implement
the IEEE Peruvian project.
Such experiences prepare young people
for the future, in which technology will
permeate all aspects of society and there
will be a need for people versed in heterogeneous areas to solve real-life problems,
he says.
"Moreover," he says, "IEEE members
and students in Bolivia are working to
improve their own country and, at the
same time, they're getting training on
a variety of technologies. Through the
Bolivia project, we have a blueprint for
how to provide data connectivity not
only in other countries but also in scenarios such as recovery from natural
disasters and situations where grassroots approaches could be most effective.
"Volunteers all over the world with the
right funding could carry out the same
project in a variety of circumstances."

project is all about," he says. They need to
be taught, for example, how to explain to
locals the need to establish such a network.
There's also technical instruction dealing
with the installation and configuration of
radios, the design of long-distance links,
and the tweaking of open-source code.
Most of the volunteers are versed in
some of those areas, but it's still a learning process.
Murillo says CamachoNet has given him
valuable insights for his political science
research on how technology influences
government and society. He is studying
how governmental decisions are carried
out through artificial intelligence, as well
as the development of frameworks to
assess algorithmic transparency and the
application of control-system principles -KATHY PRETZ
to certain administrative processes.
This article originally appeared online
"The project is an amazing complement as "Martin Murillo Brings Bolivian Villages
to my research," he says, "because it gives the Internet."

THE INSTITUTE  |  MAR 2020  |  TI-9

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