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Fishermen in Brazil Use Technology to Transform a Community

Through my job at Qualcomm Wireless Reach, I travel to some of the most interesting and beautiful corners of the globe to see first-hand how mobile technology is transforming lives.

This past week, I visited Santa Cruz Cabrália, on the northeastern coast of Brazil, in the state of Bahia. In some ways, this charming and historic fishing community was a place that time—and technology—had forgotten. Believed to be the original landing site of the Portuguese in Brazil in 1500, Pataxó families have lived and fished here for generations, using techniques passed down from their ancestors. But overfishing and a lack of investment in the community was driving down the income of the fishermen and young people began leaving the community to seek opportunity elsewhere.

Together, with our project partners, we launched “Fishing With 3G Nets” in 2010 to bring the benefits of 3G connectivity to the fishing community of Santa Cruz Cabrália to help improve and diversify their trade. We also sought to help improve the environmental sustainability of the fishing industry. The project was pretty simple: we provided 3G mobile devices and connectivity to fishermen, with special apps to provide weather, pricing, market and other useful data. Fishermen are now able to communicate directly with hotels and restaurants, reducing expenses and increasing efficiency.

Blog author with the president of the Fishermen Association and Pataxó native, Leidivaldo Jesus.

Leidivaldo Jesus, a Pataxó Indian, skilled fishermen and president of the Fishermen Association, found himself lost while fishing one day, a few years back. He spent 10 days on a small fishing boat in the Atlantic Ocean. His family thought he was dead, but he managed to find his way back to shore. He tells me that today, he doesn’t go anywhere without his smartphone, the GPS, mobile apps, and communication features that help him navigate safely.

Near the fishing community of Santa Cruz Cabrália.

We and our partners have also taught the community how to cultivate oysters so they can earn a living during the off-season. To help increase socio-environmental awareness and promote the sale of oysters, an application that uses augmented reality technology, was developed using Qualcomm’s Vuforia platform. This application enables users to access informational multi-media content and an education game via a 3G-connected tablet. The addition of oyster cultivation has increased employment and household incomes among fishermen in the region.

I had the pleasure of meeting Girlândia Pires Pereira, a mariculutirst from the Guaiú Community during many of my visits to Cabrália. There was something different about her smile this time; she was overjoyed and reinvigorated about the recent success of the project. In only two months, a participating restaurant has sold 2,000 oysters, which has generated approximately $2,500 Brazilian real (US$1,286) in additional monthly income for the community of mariculturists. Girlândia tells me that, “Women are using the newly gained income to purchase household items and make necessary repairs in their homes to provide their children with a safer place to live and play.” When I asked how she spent her income she answered, “No, I will not spend it, I am saving my additional income for a rainy day.”

My latest trip to Cabrália was to support the launch of phase three of this project. We inaugurated a beautiful historic building, donated by the municipality of Santa Cruz Cabrália, which will house the Center for Education and Technology Innovation – Fishing with 3G Nets (CEIT-PR3G). Community members can now develop their own digital content and access projects designed to inspire and cultivate youth entrepreneurship.

In front of the Center for Education and Technology Innovation – Fishing with 3G Nets.

At Qualcomm, we believe that 3G and 4G technologies can enable new economic opportunities, improve access to education and health care, and transform lives. Fishing with 3G Nets is a remarkable example of this and I am proud to be part of this project.

To learn more about Qualcomm Wireless Reach and Fishing with 3G Nets, please visit www.qualcomm.com/wirelessreach. Additionally, here are links to the project video and case study in English and Portuguese

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