The single most important factor hampering a region’s prospects is digital isolation

Antoine Karam

French Guiana senator

French Guiana has the weakest very high-speed broadband coverage in the country. At the same time, the Guiana Space Centre is furnishing the planet with telecommunications satellites. Take a second to ponder that paradox.

This delay has a very real impact on economic and social development, especially for our businesses, which often operate in small markets limited by geographic factors. Overcoming digital isolation is vital for everyone who has been left behind by digital technology. It is also a fantastic growth driver for an economy that can create new jobs. Achieving that involves providing everyone with very high-speed broadband access and coverage in existing black spots, especially along major roads. This is all essential to making a department such as French Guiana more competitive and more attractive, in order to improve everyday lives for people living there in urban and isolated areas alike.

We’ve certainly started to move in the right direction. The Kanawa submarine cable has brought us very high-speed broadband, which goes one step towards providing the Guianese people with better connectivity. But new digital services are also an important part of the transition. Until very recently, businesses here had to wait months for a certificate of incorporation whereas in mainland France you can get the document online astonishingly fast. That’s exactly the kind of logic-defying delay that is holding back our companies here.

The situation is gradually improving in Saint Laurent du Maroni, but the isolation further inland is still far from acceptable. We’re hoping that alternatives using satellites and mobile networks will provide very high-speed connections because French Guiana’s society is as ready to adopt digital technology as much as any other around the world. Smartphones and tablets are becoming more widespread. The department’s population is growing fast and requirements are increasing as a result. This means that we need adequate infrastructure to cover individual needs and improve the quality of services in isolated communities. At a time when the notion of inclusive societies is gaining traction, digital technology is one of the key tools required to shape society around people’s wants and needs, not the other way around. I have no doubt that installing very high-speed connections in schools located in remote communities, for instance, will help our education system cater more closely to our children’s needs.

Camille Djian & Martine Hermans

Digital accessibility starts in store