At the Arctic broadband forum in Fairbanks, AK there was a strong representation from the Native Alaskan and Native Canadian community. Their goal, to be included in the process of bringing broadband to their communities. We heard a presentation from Byron Nicholai from the Facebook page I Sing, You Dance. He spoke about how broadband has changed his life by sharing his culture over the internet. He was raised in Tooksook Bay, Alaska and has now sung his traditional songs around the world including for President Obama at the White House.
Mayor Madeline Redfern from Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada said
I would just caution, I have heard repeatedly about concerns that better internet is actually going to harm or somehow risk our culture. As you saw this morning with Byron, the fact is that the internet and better access to connectivity actually is the ability to create culture. Not only share our culture with outsiders but, share our culture with our own. It is quite shameful that in our territory a lot of cultural content is produced then has to be taken down South to be edited and uploaded. People from around the world have better access to our culture than even our people in our territory. Without a doubt, like any technology, we welcome it. We will use it our own way. We have always been technologists, that’s how we have survived. So, I just caution the framing of some of the language around anything that is indigenous or Arctic. It (broadband Internet) is, without a doubt, a tool that we want.
Her testimony was a statement about how indigenous people desire to be included in a technology that is considered to be, “The Great Equalizer,” of the 21st century.
Broadband Internet in the Arctic is an incredibly dynamic subject. From the Quintillion Fiber Project that has the goal of connecting Europe to Japan via a fiber optic cable that transects the Arctic Ocean to digital inclusion for indigenous people, there are many challenges that must be faced. It is clear, the native technologists of the North are excited to be included in the process of implementing this new technology in their communities and their culture.