The remote Marubo tribe in the Amazon rainforest is experiencing both benefits and difficulties since high speed internet was introduced. Elon’s Starlink service made this possible and has linked the 2,000 member tribe with the world. However, there have been surprising results.

The Marubo Tribe Goes Online

In September last year, the Marubo tribe living along the Ituí River deep in the Amazon got satellite internet through Starlink. This tied antennas to 6,000 low orbiting satellites. Allyson Reneau, an American entrepreneur, donated the antennas. At first, everyone thought having the internet would be a good thing because they could get help quickly during emergencies, share educational resources and keep in touch with friends and family living elsewhere.

  • The Internet allowed them to communicate quickly with authorities during emergencies.
  • They shared educational resources with other tribes.
  • Kept up contact with distant friends and family members.

Emerging Problems

But the internet caused new problems too. Older people like Tsainama Marubo, age 73 noticed young people acting differently because of their exposure to social media and explicit websites. This worried them because it affected their traditions.

  • Growth in exposure to social media.
  • Fall in conventional activities such as hunting, fishing and farming.
  • Fear over losing cultural practices and beliefs.

A man called Alfredo Marubo felt nervous about how adult content affected young men’s behaviour making them more sexually aggressive “We’re worried young people are going to want to try it” he said about what they see on those websites. There have also been issues with digital literacy, leading some to fall victim to internet scams.

Actions to Control the Effects

To deal with these problems, Marubo leaders set rules on using the internet. The tribe can use it only two hours every morning, five hours every evening and all of Sunday. However parents are still worried about how it will affect their children in the long run.

  • They restricted access to the internet during certain periods daily.
  • Parents continue to fear the impact of violent video games and explicit content.

Different Views on Internet Use

There’s tension between those who feel that accessing the internet threatens Marubo’s traditional lifestyle and others who see it as a tool for modernising and connecting with the world. Flora Dutra, an activist from Brazil who helped give the tribes people net access believes that their fears are exaggerated and said most of them “wanted and deserved” to go online.

  • Some consider Internet access a way towards modernisation.
  • Others show concern over loss of traditional customs and beliefs.

The Marubo community continues figuring out how to best use technology without compromising their traditions. Enoque Marubo, one of their leaders was happy they could get help faster in emergencies, but also recognised what a big change this was for them.

The Wider Impact

This story is part of wider discussions about technology’s effects on out of the way places. The New York Times was first to cover the arrival of the internet into Marubo life demonstrating both good things and problems about it. But then news stories overstated claims about addiction which tribal leaders strongly denied.

  • The New York Times article set off overblown reports about addiction.
  • Marubo leaders dismissed these claims stressing the internet’s wider benefits.

Jack Nicas, the reporter on the original story, pointed out that while Marubo leaders were apprehensive about the internet impacting them, claims about widespread addiction were overdone. This illustrates how modern technology can both help and harm remote areas.

What Comes Next

The Marubo tribe’s experience adjusting to life online will probably continue making headlines. This serves as an interesting study examining how best to balance traditions with modern technology.

At last, Marubo tribal leaders and their people are striding to create a fair balance between harnessing Internet benefits and protecting themselves from its drawbacks. The continuing talks within the tribe and with those lending support will be essential in directing their future course.

 

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