By Jaylan Boyle, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – State Governor Sergio Cabral has announced the extension of the government-sponsored free internet project into traditionally underserviced areas. The initiative, known as Projeto Orla Digital (Digital Beachfront Project), started in September 2008 and aims to link the entire population of Rio to wireless broadband. This latest phase is being expanded to the Avenida Brasil locality, Zona Oeste (West Zone), and Baixada Fluminense (an autonomous region bordering Guanabara Bay, north of Rio proper yet considered part of the city).
“The digital inclusion that we are promoting today will enable more families to truly enter the 21st century,” said Sérgio Cabral. “Rio de Janeiro is the most advanced of all Brazilian states from a technological point of view, and before long it will become the first state with 100% free digital coverage. This is absolutely unique, and it inspires us to continue, in partnership with Rio’s technology sector, which is working in the service of society,” said Cabral.
State Secretary of Science and Technology Alexandre Cardoso confirmed that the first antennae in the area are being erected this week in Duque de Caxias. Wireless broadband should be operational throughout the Baixada Fluminense by October.
There are however challenges still to be overcome. Newspaper O Dia has carried out tests in the Dona Marta and City Of God favelas. The trials reported extremely slow connection speeds in parts of these communities.
A fringe benefit of the project for the Avenida Brasil locality will be the utilization of the broadband cables to facilitate security cameras and lighting, according to Governor Cabral. The state government has awarded the installation contract for the Baixada region, and the Prefeitura of Rio de Janeiro will conduct auctions for the contract to supply the Avenida Brasil locale in the near future. After the Duque de Caxias neighborhood, São João de Meriti, Belford Roxo and Mesquita will be completed. Nova Iguaçu is due to be online by October.
Dona Marta (also known as Santa Marta) was the first favela community to benefit from the project as part of a pilot program, which went live in March of this year. Sixteen antennae broadcast a wireless signal to the favela’s 10,000 residents, and can be received anywhere on the hilltop neighborhood, albeit with mixed reception quality. The initiative is seen as reinforcing the ‘social inclusion’ policy that the government is advocating.
R$1.1 million has been invested in Projeto Orla Digital already, which began with the installation of wireless access across the length of Copacabana.