The Internet is an incredible tool that can help amplify voices that may not otherwise be heard. But when it comes to making sure everyone can have access to this tool, we can’t downplay the power of human connections to overcome connectivity challenges.
One of the things that stood out for me most at the 2018 Indigenous Connectivity Summit (ICS) last week in Inuvik, NT was getting a first-hand view of what happens when Indigenous voices are at the forefront of Internet solutions.
Nearly 140 people joined us in the Arctic Circle for a two-day series of panels and presentations focused on finding solutions to improve connectivity in rural and remote Indigenous communities, with a special focus on northern connectivity challenges. The livestream was viewed over 850 times.
It was inspiring to hear speakers shed light on the ways they innovated to bring Internet to underserved Indigenous communities on their own terms through Community Networks throughout North America and abroad.
I think some of the most important successes, however, came when ICS participants were able to interact during breaks, round-table discussions, on the bus trip to Tuktoyaktuk, at the community feast, and even on the flights to and from the event. I’ve already heard of a few participants who were able to make connections that may result in future work together.
When you bring everyone to the table to achieve a common goal at events like the Indigenous Connectivity Summit, connections are made. Partnerships are formed. Problems are solved. People are empowered. One participant even noted that within the first day of the event she had already solved four problems she faced back in her community.
The first Indigenous Connectivity Summit report found that improved connectivity in Indigenous communities leads to better access to critical services like employment, education, and health within communities. It can also play a huge role in language and culture revitalization.
Likewise, the successes of the leaders of Indigenous connectivity at this event will no doubt have a ripple effect in the communities they serve. People will be better equipped to learn or develop Indigenous languages through apps. Communities will have better access to social media campaigns like We Matter that provide messages of hope to Indigenous youth around suicide prevention. The possibilities are literally endless.
I have to express my sincere gratitude to our local partners, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Town of Inuvik, and the community members of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. They made sure we experienced the best of the region, from drum dancing and Arctic Games demonstrations to the opportunity to try local foods and tour the Inuvik Satellite Station.
Our other partners were also a huge help, especially with the pre-Summit training day in Edmonton: the University of Alberta and the First Mile Connectivity Consortium. And I’d like to give a huge shout out to the sponsors who made the event possible: CANARIE, Canadian Internet Registration Authority, Cybera, Google, Iristel and Ice Wireless, ICANN, Telesat, and OneWeb.
While the event was an all-around success in terms of connections, we have to remember that we all have a responsibility to ensure Indigenous voices are included in the future of the Internet. As such, it’s important to keep the conversation going and foster these connections to achieve success beyond this event.
One of our goals was to provide a forum for participants to connect and develop lasting partnerships. If you made a connection with someone at the Summit that could result in future work together, or if you were able solve a challenge you are experiencing because of something you learned or a connection you made, please let us know.
If you weren’t able to join us in person and would like to connect with any of the ICS participants, let us know and we can help make it happen.
Stay tuned to our website for the launch of the upcoming 2018 Indigenous Connectivity Summit community report.
Image ©Shuli Hallak