With the rapid advancement of telecommunications, it’s hard to believe many communities around the world do not have any cellular or internet access. However, that is the reality in the small agricultural town of Itabocal in north-eastern Brazil.

Brenda Vilas Boaz lead the IEEE – Centro-Norte Brazil section and the IEEE – student branch at University Para to begin finding technical and social solutions to this multifaceted issue thanks to an EPICS in IEEE grant. The team not only installed a Community-Based Communication System (CELCOM) and mobile tower in Itabocal, but also trained a group of 20 high school students, over half of them female, to manage the system. As the students graduate, future students will then be trained to continue the cycle.

The CELCOM grants basic cellular and internet access to all community members and will be entirely run and maintained by local students. This project has instilled a sense of community ownership, granted rural communities access to the many uses of telecommunications (e.g., education, communication, telemedicine, etc.), and continuously inspires students to consider a possible future career in engineering.