French Guiana takes first step on information superhighway

An overseas department of France located on the northern coast of South America is being ushered into the digital age thanks to the installation of high-speed broadband connections covering the whole of the region. Over 85 km of optic fibre have been laid linking the capital Cayenne to Kourou, where the greatest concentration of the region’s 221 500 inhabitants reside.

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One of the many dishes connecting residents to broadband One of the many dishes connecting residents to broadband

"For the use of wifi by satellite to really take hold in this remote location, the Amerindian community must have access to computers and training. As for the young, they are hopeful that this new development will give them greater opportunities to connect with the wider world."
Mr Opoya, chief of the isolated village of Elae where wifi is being installed via satellite

The days of frustratingly sluggish internet connections are soon to be banished as Guyane Numérique puts in place infrastructure to connect 84% of the population to ADSL always-on technology and the remaining 16% in hard-to-reach areas to satellite services.

A fairer playing field

In December 2006 Guyane’s regional council entrusted Guyane Numérique, a public service provider, with the task of putting in place a high-speed internet network to serve the whole community. This network would create a fairer playing field for innovation and business in general.

Arteria, part of the Électricité de France group, was chosen to lay four optic fibres in the region which would ‘connect’ the vast majority of residents and, importantly, the region’s businesses. Through this connection, the prestigious Guiana Space Centre is covered. The centre is crucial to the region’s economy. It accounts for 25% of GDP and employs around 1 700 people.

For the more remote locations, a satellite hub near Guyane’s regional council has been set up. Cutting-edge satellite technology brings the internet to 17 of the region’s hard-to-reach communes.

Bridging the digital divide

It is expected that the developments currently underway in Guyane will bridge the digital divide, allowing the population to make the most of everything the internet has to offer. Prices will drop with increased competition, making connections more affordable for residents.

The Guyane region will become a more attractive area for new kinds of investment as this sector gains ground. The region will be able to modernise and new opportunities will allow residents to diversify from the region’s traditional industries of fishing, gold mining and timber.

This should promote the growth of information and communication technologies and generate employment, especially important for the region given that its current unemployment rate stands at between 20% and 30%.

Draft date

04/12/2009