About Belize and Internet Access

I was in Belize for nine days. This trip was the field trip component of a CERMES course called Natural Resources Management and I was there in a support capacity. While in Belize I got to see the southern part of the country – the Monkey River area – when we did a water quality and sediment sampling project. I saw the hill area – the Maya Mountains and San Ignacio – where we traveled to two hydroelectric power plants and saw Xunantanich. I saw the agricultural practices of Mennonite farmers in the Orange Walk District in the north near the Mexico border. And I spent a brief yet joyous afternoon snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve (scroll down to Shark Ray Alley - Zone D). With one exception, I had miserable access to the internet. You see, I am a self-proclaimed techie, so this did not set well with me. Some may say that when going to Belize, one should turn off the tech anyway. No. I was working and so were the students and professors. One of the reasons I was present on this trip was for technical support for student blogging. The students were to blog each evening after their day in the field and then use those posts as "field notes" for when they write up their final reports. Well, all plans for blogging each night flew right out the window. It was very discouraging, at least for me, and I found it remarkable that there was this lack of reliable network access. What is this world coming to?

Then at the Miami airport, where I paid a whopping $4.95 for a mere 30 minutes of time on wireless, and on the plane coming home, I read that the U.S. is only 12th in the world with broadband access. Only 69 percent of U.S. households have high-speed access to the net. That seems way too low. But I imagine that Belize would be in single digits for household access, and this is not even broadband as the internet is served up through a telephone line and a modem. That is the way I have access in my apartment in Barbados. While I think that the U.S. and our citizenry should be number one in broadband access and there are plans to make that occur, it is clearly important for the developing world to have greater access to the information found on the web. Those without this information will be left in the dust. And internet cafes are not access.

That one exception I mentioned above, we had web access at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belmopan, where all of us – students, professors and staff – hopped on wireless and caught up on email and such. Did the students also catch up on their blogging at that time? Sadly but not surprisingly, no.

The map of Belize was grabbed from here.

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