IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - March 2015 - 21

simple surgical procedure without technological assistance. Very poor rural areas in developing nations also
would welcome advanced technology for the betterment
of health. However, in these areas, low life expectancy
is generally due to easily preventable and treatable
diseases such as diarrhoea, Chagas disease, dengue,
complications of malnutrition, and birth complications.
In these cases, tools such as basic communication technologies would help enormously by enabling interaction
among professionals, remote consultation and diagnosis, information on medical supplies, sharing of patient
records, second opinions, evacuation information, and
health education. Indeed, leading world humanitarians
have identified data communications for remote health
offices as one of the top three tools that will contribute to the fulfillment of the United Nations Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) [10].

Broad Relevance
This article draws experience gained from an ongoing
initiative (that started in 2010) in a very remote area in
the Peruvian Amazon, one of the poorest areas in Latin
America and the world. The initiative consists in the
implementation of telecommunications infrastructure
and the transport of data (audio, video, files, Internet)
among four remote and difficult to access points, tens
of kilometres away from each other. We provide recommendations for the implementation of similar long-distance data connectivity initiatives, putting emphasis on
the social aspects of these initiatives and the creation
of local capacity and entrepreneurship. This article fills
gaps left by excellent technical literature, the availability
of good studies and indicators, and the availability of
affordable long-distance technology [13], [16], [17].
In contrast to the utilization of satellite services for
long-distance communication, the approach utilizes

GTR
Group

IEEE
HTC

Local
Leaders

Engaged
Citizens

Other Local
Stackholders

Others

Health
Personnel

Sustainability

Local Small
Business

Other
Beneficiaries
Capacity Building

Farmers

The Peruvian Amazon initiative (initially part of the IEEE
Humanitarian Technology Challenge), started with a
worldwide search for potential partner organizations with
a good track record and experience in socially focused
long-haul connectivity projects, rural health, aspects
of sustainability beyond the funding period, and a high
degree of direct and efficient involvement in rural development. The involvement needed to be at the implementation and operation stages, taking into consideration
issues such as culture, local issues, and politics. The
target areas identified for intervention are inhabited by
multi-ethnic populations, including native tribes. They all
partake of natural resources, daily life, political issues,
and general challenges, such as high maternal mortality
rate, life below the poverty line, bad disease and mortality indicators, and consequences of climate change.
Flooding, lack of electricity, lack of potable water, unreliability of river trips, high costs of staples, and inability to
export produce are factors that complicate the context.
Other issues that have further complicated the situation are the populations' isolation for hundreds of years,
extreme remoteness, and the challenges that remain as
a result of the operation of terrorist groups, which had

Alto Amazonas
Health Network and
Rural Network
Personnel

Municipality

Local Political
Entities

Peruvian Amazon Initiative

Management

Top-Down
Initiative/
Interest

inexpensive microwave devices and tower infrastructure
that remain as assets for tens of years to come and can
be utilized for other services for sustainability purposes.
The recommendations presented can be important
given that similar situations are found in various parts
of the world, experiencing minimal prospects of being
served by national or private telecommunication institutions in the future. Similarly, in some cases, these experiences might be relevant when foreign interventions are
limited due to national policies that are restrictive when
personal privacy or national security are at stake.

Through
Beneficiaries

Direct
Beneficiaries

Bottom-Up
Initiative/Interest
Figure 2. General depiction of Amazon project stakeholders.

MARCH 2015

∕

IEEE TEchnology and SocIETy MagazInE

21



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