Idjwi, an island in Lake Kivu, DR Congo is now connected to the internet
Idjwi island, located in Lake Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo is now connected to the internet.
Earlier today, Dr. Jacques Sebisaho, the founder and Executive Director of Amani Global Works spoke with NPR’s Weekend Edition. He discussed how the island (also his homeland) recently connected to the internet for the first time.
For decades, the island – which is home to 250,000 residents – was in dire need of better healthcare. That has since changed after Dr. Sebisaho and his wife opened a clinic in northern Idjwi in 2009. The clinic has evolved into a hosptial and community health program. Still, power on the island is limited to mostly solar means (which power the internet access).
The three-minute interview highlights a few challenges facing medicine and the spread of information technology:
- Communication access is important if remote areas are to attract skilled doctors
- Healthcare is bolstered by consultations using Skype
- What are the risks of connecting an isolated community to the internet – will it bring consumerism and other dangers?
- One-off internet connections are exceedingly expensive and long-term success hinges on private donations
More specifically, Dr. Sebisaho provides more detail on the recent arrival of internet of Idjwi:
- Twice lost doctors left the community due to lack of communication with family and colleagues abroad.
- The community had heard of, but had never seen the internet in action.
- Idjwi’s connection through an Israeli provider is very expensive – $1500 per month (VSAT?). A private donation funded the set-up costs and the first month of access.
- Skype is now possible between Idjwi and New York (email too, of course).
- Idjwi has been sheltered from the ongoing conflict in the region. The island has not been exposed to consumerism. Will the internet end this innocence?
The arrival of internet access will no doubt allow for telemedicine and a faster spread of information to Idjwi. The vast majority of people living on Idjwi may not yet have the means (or desire) to use the internet but at least it will be working to save lives. In time, we wouldn’t be surprised if this project spurs additional endeavors to bring internet access (perhaps wireless?) to the island.
Stream the entire interview clip: