In November 2017, the Internet Society hosted the inaugural Indigenous Connectivity Summit in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The event brought together community network operators, Internet service providers, community members, researchers, policy makers, and Indigenous leadership to work together to bridge the connectivity gap in indigenous communities in North America. One of the participants shared his story.
“My background is in architecture. This is all brand new,” said Merrill Yazzie, tribal community planner and project coordinator for the Pueblo of Cochiti. The pueblo had just begun to lay fiber to improve tribal Internet access. “The community itself doesn’t have Internet. The one line just goes to the government, to the administrative building,” said Yazzie. “Everyone relies on their cellular phones or satellite services, which can be pretty expensive.”
According to Yazzie, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, there are many advantages to increased Internet access. “It will benefit all generations,” said Yazzie. “Economically it will be a benefit. You don’t have access to the universities because you don’t have a vehicle or public transportation is not available. One way to access education would be through online courses.” Further, he mentioned the benefit increased connectivity could bring to basic services: emergency calls could be routed to all nearby communities, decreasing response time; the water system could be connected to help locate leaks, to both conserve water and avert disasters; collecting crash data could help improve community planning and engineering.
It was clear that the connections that Yazzie and his team members made at the Indigenous Connectivity Summit would continue to impact the Pueblo of Cochiti’s efforts to increase Internet access for its community.
Let’s work together to build an Internet for everyone. Register for the Indigenous Connectivity Summit 2018, which takes place this October in Edmonton and Inuvik, Canada. You can also find ever-growing resources on topics including community networks, cultural preservation, and Indigenous-driven access at the Indigenous Connectivity page.
Photo ©Minesh Bacrania