Aboriginal Connectivity Strategy

Some of the information on this Web page has been provided by external sources. The Government of Canada is not responsible for the accuracy, reliability or currency of the information supplied by external sources. Users wishing to rely upon this information should consult directly with the source of the information. Content provided by external sources is not subject to official languages, privacy and accessibility requirements.

Submitted by Keewaytinook Okimakanak 2010–07–10 09:24:26 EDT
Theme(s): Digital Infrastructure

Summary

We are a group of First Nations organizations who develop and support the use of broadband networks, services and applications in First Nations communities. We believe that the broadband networks developed by a federal digital economy strategy and Aboriginal connectivity strategy will have a direct impact on the quality of life for First Nations community members and improve their access to health and learning opportunities.

Our submission discusses four principles to guide the new federal strategies:

  1. Work with First Nations leaders and organizations representing First Nations communities to develop the federal strategies;
  2. Ensure that the strategies meet all the connectivity needs of First Nations communities;
  3. Adopt a broadband infrastructure development model that supports First Nations community–owned, managed and sustained broadband connectivity solutions; and
  4. Ensure ongoing support for a national network of First Nations broadband support organizations.

Our submission ends with a list of references and links to resources about First Nations communities, broadband networks and ICT.


Submission

Honorable Tony Clement
Minister of Industry
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Honorable Chuck Strahl
Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

July 5, 2010

Dear Honorable Tony Clement and Honorable Chuck Strahl,

Re: A First Nations Perspective on a Digital Economy Strategy and an Aboriginal Connectivity Strategy

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute our views to Industry Canada's Digital Economy Strategy consultation. We are also taking this opportunity to contribute to Indian and Northern Affairs' Aboriginal Connectivity Strategy process — from our perspective the same issues are relevant to both policy areas. We trust you will find our submission useful in guiding your policy and strategy development, and we look forward to your response to our proposals.

Joint submission from:

Judy Whiteduck, Director, Economic
Donna Williams, e–health Coordinator
Assembly of First Nations
473 Albert Street, Suite 810
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 5B4

Kevin R. Burton, RMO Manager
Atlantic Canada's First Nation Help Desk
47 Maillard Street,
Membertou, Nova Scotia B1S 2P5

Tim Whiteduck
IT Coordinator, CEPN–FNEC
95, rue de l'Ours,
Wendake, (Quebec) G0A 4V0

Brian Beaton, K–Net Coordinator
Keewaytinook Okimakanak
Box 1439, 115 King Street
Sioux Lookout, Ontario, P8T 1B9

Relevant discussion theme for Industry Canada consultation

Digital Infrastructure: How best can we ensure that rural and remote communities are not left behind in terms of access to advanced networks and what are the priority areas for attention in these regions?

As a group, we have many decades of experience working with First Nations communities to develop, implement and maintain broadband networks and to support the use of ICT for First Nations community, social and economic development.

Based on our experience, we are proposing four principles to guide the development of any federal digital economy strategy or connectivity strategy that will have an impact on First Nations communities.

1. Work with First Nations leaders and organizations representing First Nations communities to develop the federal strategies.

Since May 2008, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and a team of ICT experts with First Nations organizations and communities across Canada have been developing a strategic plan. The plan developed by the AFN IT Experts Think Tank describes the "e– Community ICT model," that builds upon a common network model. The plan also outlines policy recommendations along five themes: First Nation capacity development, First Nation connectivity, human resources development, information management, and service delivery and partners.

The Think Tank envisions a national First Nations broadband network as an integrated end–to–end satellite and terrestrial design based on providing broadband access to more than 630 First Nations. The broadband network is part of a broader plan for economic, social and cultural change as a result of a comprehensive economic strategy based on knowledge and information. The plan is outlined in Whiteduck, J., 2010 (references are listed at the end of this document).

The AFN IT Think Tank represents the interests of First Nations communities across Canada. The group has: significant expertise; on–the–ground practical experience implementing broadband infrastructure, networks and ICT solutions; and a history of successful partnerships with government and industry partners. We are requesting that the government work in partnership with the AFN IT Experts Think Tank to develop all federal strategies aimed at improving connectivity or the digital economy in First Nations communities.

2. Ensure that the strategies meet all the connectivity needs of First Nations communities.

Industry Canada's current definition of broadband (1.5 Mbps) may meet the needs of individual households in communities but falls far short of meeting the needs of essential First Nations community services and community organizations. First Nations communities need connectivity for e–health and telemedicine, digital education and e–learning, e–commerce, public works, policing and justice and many other community activities. Our experience suggests that these services in First Nations communities will require a minimum 10 Mbps fibre connection to the communities.

In particular, First Nations community health centres need significant broadband for telehealth and telemedicine using videoconferencing. These broadband needs will only increase as more and more First Nations communities begin their planned telehealth services. In the future, the trend toward tele–homecare services will require increased broadband to community residences. A description of a successful First Nations telemedicine network is outlined in Williams (2010).

Other community services using broadband include education (Carpenter, 2010; Potter, 2010; Walmark, 2010; Whiteduck, T., 2010), water treatment (Strachan, 2010), and community videoconferencing (O'Donnell, Walmark and Hancock, 2010).

The First Nations e–Community ICT Model builds upon the network model employed by every institution and corporation across Canada. Every First Nation requires a broadband, preferably fibre, connection and a local ICT team to support the telecommunication infrastructure that serves as their communications link to the rest of the world. Just as every hospital and university is served by a broadband, fibre optic connection to CANARIE or some other broadband regional provider funded by government, every First Nation requires an equitable broadband connection to serve their multitude of services and applications. Just as every hospital or university operates their own IT team of technicians to manage their local connections, to support their different applications, to provide training for staff, to maintain a working network; every First Nations requires a team of IT technicians who delivers an equitable level of service for all the local programs, services, businesses and community members.

3. Adopt a broadband infrastructure development model that supports First Nations community–owned, managed and sustained broadband connectivity solutions.

We are requesting that the federal government make it a requirement that companies and organizations receiving federal funding for broadband infrastructure must work in full partnership with First Nations.

As First Nations identify partnering opportunities with the private sector and other partners to develop local and regional networks and e–Community opportunities, there is the need to support local innovation, priorities and needs. A new framework is required on which First Nations regional and local ICT service providers / leaders, government and local / regional partners can identify and respond to economic, environmental, and social well–being issues for the present and future requirements.

Where a business partnership may be proposed, a program initiative to help support First Nations equity needs must be identified locally, regionally and nationally. Such an effort will support First Nations organizations to develop and assess opportunities to negotiate new arrangements that promote economies of scale at a national level, such as a Microsoft providing software at discounted rates for First Nations schools, or other equipment purchase benefits.

National research partnerships and opportunities are required to monitor, evaluate and explore new initiatives and existing developments in the effective use of broadband networks, services and applications in First Nations. This work will ensure that local and regional First Nation authorities are recognized and supported in all sectors to establish partnerships with the appropriate partners.

4. Ensure ongoing support for a national network of First Nations broadband support organizations

Who will support the First Nations broadband infrastructure? We believe it should be the existing network of First Nations organizations that successfully do so now – the First Nations SchoolNet Regional Management Organizations (RMOs). The RMOs recently received an excellent evaluation in a program review by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. The RMOs and their regional networks are providing IP videoconferencing, data and voice services in Band Offices, Nursing Stations and Schools as well as providing connections for residential, cellular and wireless services. These First Nations organizations are working with their regional partners making it possible for them to address the Government's agenda to deliver services online. The RMO presence extends to: strengthening local community ICT capacity, participation in a national Aboriginal broadband network, national and regional Aboriginal videoconferencing, innovative schools projects, collaborative programs with other departments, and economic development (Whiteduck, T., 2010).

These existing First Nations broadband service organizations need direct federal support to continue working as a cohesive national network, and to continue developing and delivering these broadband connections, information technologies and appropriate First Nations applications in partnership with First Nations, their schools, their health centres and other First Nation organizations, and other government and commercial organizations.

Conclusion

We believe it is possible for a national Digital Economy Strategy and an Aboriginal Connectivity strategy to support economic, social and cultural change in First Nations communities. If designed to meet the needs of First Nations, a digital economy and Aboriginal connectivity can act as a powerful source of jobs and growth and help create stronger First Nations communities. The broadband networks and activities developed by the proposed federal strategies also have the potential to bring direct impacts to First Nations community members and improve their access to the health and learning opportunities already being enjoyed by most Canadians.

This submission outlines a First Nations perspective to guide the development of federal strategies for a digital economy and Aboriginal connectivity. First Nations can and must be part of the digital economy. The right investments made now in First Nation communities will reap long–term dividends — far greater in value than their overall short–term cost.


References

These references below are from the 2010 book based on papers from the Aboriginal Policy Research Conference, co–hosted by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the University of Western Ontario.

Carpenter, P. (2010) The Kuhkenah Network (K–Net). In White, J.P., Peters, J., Beavon, D., Dinsdale, P. (eds). Aboriginal Policy Research VI: Learning, Technology and Traditions. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing: 119–127.

O'Donnell, S., Walmark, B. and Hancock, B–R. (2010) Videoconferencing and Remote and Rural First Nations. In White, J.P., Peters, J., Beavon, D., Dinsdale, P. (eds). Aboriginal Policy Research VI: Learning, Technology and Traditions. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing: 128–139.

Potter, D. (2010) Keewaytinook Internet High School Review (2003–2008). In White, J.P., Peters, J., Beavon, D., Dinsdale, P. (eds). Aboriginal Policy Research VI: Learning, Technology and Traditions. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing: 147– 155.

Strachan, B. (2010) The K–Net Approach to Water Treatment. In White, J.P., Peters, J., Beavon, D., Dinsdale, P. (eds). Aboriginal Policy Research VI: Learning, Technology and Traditions. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing: 156–157.

Walmark, B. (2010) Digital Education in Remote Aboriginal Communities. In White, J.P., Peters, J., Beavon, D., Dinsdale, P. (eds). Aboriginal Policy Research VI: Learning, Technology and Traditions. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing: 140–146.

Whiteduck, J. (2010) Building the First Nation e–Community. In White, J.P., Peters, J., Beavon, D., Dinsdale, P. (eds). Aboriginal Policy Research VI: Learning, Technology and Traditions. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing: 95–103.

Whiteduck, T. (2010) First Nations SchoolNet and the Migration of Broadband and Community–Based ICT Applications. (2010) in White, J.P., Peters, J., Beavon, D., Dinsdale, P. (eds). Aboriginal Policy Research VI: Learning, Technology and Traditions. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing: 105–117.

Williams, D. (2010) Telehealth/Telemedicine Services in Remote First Nations in Northern Ontario. In White, J.P., Peters, J., Beavon, D., Dinsdale, P. (eds). Aboriginal Policy Research VI: Learning, Technology and Traditions. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing: 159–168.


Other resources

Our websites:

Assembly of First Nations

Mik'maw Kina'matneway / Atlantic Canada's First Nation Help Desk

The First Nations Education Council / Conseil en Education des Premieres Nations

K–Net, Keewaytinook Okimakanak

More research:

Journal of Community Informatics, special issue on Community Informatics and Indigenous Communities in Canada

Online resources about Keewaytinook Okimakanak, the Kuhkenah Network (K–Net) and associated broadband applications

VideoCom Project Publications

Notice

The public consultation period ended on July 13, 2010, at which time this website was closed to additional comments and submissions.

Between May 10 and July 13, more than 2010 Canadian individuals and organizations registered to share their ideas and submissions. You can read their contributions—and the comments from other users—in the Submissions Area and the Idea Forum.

Share this page

To share this page, just select the social network of your choice:

No endorsement of any products or services is expressed or implied.