CEN's prototype project involved three communities in the Brazilian Amazon. In two communities located along the upper Tapajós River, we helped manage the installation of solar-powered, Internet-connected telecenters, which was completed by mid-2004 (please see Rio Tapajós (Brazil) Telecenter Installation Project). The InfoCentro Comunitário contains information that is closely tailored to the specific health, education, civics, and entrepreneurial needs and skills of the communities. The third community, located 500 kilometers north of Manaus along the Roraima state border, already had computers and Internet access. We are now working with the three communities to use this infrastructure to become more autonomous.
Although autonomy-building is an evolutionary process and cannot be completed overnight, we have seen many promising results within a relatively short period of time. For example, one of the communities is Suruacá, which has made considerable progress on a project to provide adequate electricity throughout the community using a micro-hydroelectric dam. They have driven the process, identified partners, and prepared a project plan with only very modest assistance from outside organizations. We are now working with them to help secure funding, but they continue to drive the process. In another example, one of the communities in our pilot project, Xixuaú, has been quite successful with ecotourism, but many residents of Suruacá were very anxious to understand how ecotourism — and the cash it would bring in — might impact their way of life. By discussing these concerns with Xixuaú, Suruacá is more firmly united behind ecotourism efforts. The exchange of Xixuaú's experience is also proving useful in helping Suruacá avoid some of the problems faced by other communities that have pursued ecotourism. We anticipate that such helpful exchanges of ideas will continue through the Rede Amazônia, a network established by rural communities in the Brazilian Amazon.
During this project, we achieved the following:
- Identified obstacles that prevent IT and information from achieving their potential impact
- Identified a model for overcoming these obstacles
- Stabilized the telecenter
- Developed points of expertise within the community
- Developed relationships with successful and innovative organizations within the region and around Brazil
- Achieved clear progress on our overall goal of helping program participants become more self-reliant
We are proud that this project was selected as a finalist in the 2006 Stockholm Challenge.