Posted to the Ethnos Project by on January 18th, 2014

This paper’s objective is to identify the level of digital inclusion made possible by Brazilian digital divide program Electronic Government – Citizen Attention Service (Governo Eletrônico – Serviço de Atendimento ao Cidadão – Gesac) on indigenous lands. We are guided by Brazilian sociologist Bernardo Sorj’s five level digital inclusion system: 1) the existence of physical transmission infrastructure, 2) the availability of equipment/connection, 3) training in the use of computing tools and the internet, 4) the intellectual ability and social integration, and 5) the production and use of specific content.

Our hypothesis is that, despite an official discourse aligned with the discussions on the knowledge societies, in practice, Gesac is still operated by a technological determinism. To test this hypothesis, we performed the observation of the internet access point in the indigenous school Pamáali, of Baniwa and Coripaco ethnicities, located in the northwestern area of the Brazilian Amazon. We also discussed and conducted interviews with actors involved in the implementation of digital inclusion programs aimed at indigenous peoples: ministries and Indian National Foundation (FUNAI) officials, representatives of the third sector and indigenous themselves.

The challenges we identify lead to the conclusion that indigenous digital divide is just one of the several divides to which indigenous groups are subjected since colonial times, being one more consequence of these divides at the same time that it also accentuates them. As long as Brazilian government’s digital inclusion actions aimed at indigenous peoples are not created and implemented as part of a broader indigenous policy and do not take into consideration the specificities of these groups, these initiatives will be limited to providing internet connection and donating equipment that shall either remain underused or will rapidly deteriorate.

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