Posted to the Ethnos Project by on June 18th, 2011

Indigenous peoples make up 5% of the world’s population, occupy over 20% of the earth’s landmass, and pursue self – determination and sovereignty in all 73 countries in which they dwell. [3]

Technology is a tool, not just a reward, for growth and development. [4]

When ICTs are introduced in an indigenous population, they bring along with them mass media, popular culture, and global languages such as English, which causes inevitable clashes with local traditions and erodes stability. Paradoxically, these technologies also provide the same populations with new tools that can be used to preserve, promote, and strengthen their language and culture.

Well-designed interventions are helping pro-indigenous organizations to take ownership of these powerful technologies and use them creatively. Since the late 1960s, indigenous education and language and culture revitalization have been gaining momentum. [5] Important agreements are now in place that many local groups and international development activities are using to turn these ideals into reality. Current development practices center on building human capacity and giving the beneficiaries the tools they need to improve their lives. To this end, providing these groups and their target populations access to ICTs is a first step. Access does not guarantee empowerment, however; there must be an intentional process of adoption and adaptation.

Potential benefits are easy to imagine, as are challenges and risks. A number of successful endeavors hint at the possibilities: web pages laden with cultural information, chat rooms in indigenous languages, multimedia CD-ROMs for learning indigenous languages, and e-businesses that preserve traditional crafts while strengthening local economies. Yet, for the poor, rural, and illiterate who remain unable to cross the digital divide, these technologies are yet another means to marginalize indigenous groups that have suffered disproportionately for centuries. Once connected, cyber porn and online gambling are just two of the negative temptations awaiting indigenous groups. [6] Perhaps the biggest concern is that once a local user has access to the modern world of international sports, music, news, culture, and shopping, his or her own village, language, and traditions may lose their importance. They may even be seen as a barrier to participating in the global village.

This paper discusses this theme on local and global levels as well as from technological, educational, cultural, and developmental viewpoints. It provides background information on ICTs, globalization, and indigenous populations. It also discusses the types of interventions that have been and can be designed in this realm, so that new activities can build on the work of early adopters, including Native Americans. The undeniable risks of marginalization, inappropriate use, and sustainability are also discussed, but evidence is presented that these risks can be minimized. The underlying theme is always that it is preferable to take a pro-active and culturally sensitive approach to technology introduction. In the end, it is up to local indigenous groups to take ownership of the technologies and use them to make their languages and cultures flourish in cyberspace.

— Footnotes for page 2 —

The author wishes to thank Mary Fontaine for her guidance and support in writing this paper.
3 McIntosh, 2002.
4 United Nations Development Programme, 2001, p. 2.
5 Hernandez and Thornton, 1998, p. 23.
6 Odasz, 2000.

ICTs Meet Indigenous Cultures

Globalization and ICTs touch the lives of all people. Many concerns have been raised about negative consequences of ICTs in indigenous communities. However, harmonious integration of ICTs into indigenous communities has been achieved and is a noble goal.

Globalization’s Effects on Indigenous Languages and Cultures

Instead of widening our choices, globalization seem to be forcing us all into the same shallow cosmetic culture giving us all the same appetites but leaving us more unequal than ever before in our ability to satisfy them… We have to manage the process of global integration in such a way that everyone can benefit and no one gets crushed… [7]

Social observers generally agree that what is significant about today’s world is not so much the changes we are experiencing, but rather the pace of change. Technological transformations and economic globalization are mutually reinforcing processes, and the new tools of ICT accelerate the process even more. [8] This has had both positive and negative consequences for indigenous populations.

Native American observers recognize that “when the Spaniards brought the first iron knives and horses, life was improved for many tribes, and their cultures changed significantly.” Now, they see the Internet as “an electronic wind of new possibilities for self-empowerment [that] has unexpectedly changed what Native Americans can do to support themselves and their tribes.” [9]

Depending on availability, perceived benefit, and economic capacity, indigenous groups have taken advantage of the new products and technologies just as all people have throughout history. Sami reindeer herders in the Scandinavian Peninsula have readily embraced cell phones, along with other tools such as snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, to improve productivity in their work. [10] Chain saws and pickups make logging a profitable operation. Packaged, imported foods supplement traditional foods with convenience and variety. Low-cost used clothing from developed countries is an attractive alternative to elaborate traditional dress for cash-strapped families. Improved roads, transportation networks, and communication systems foster increased migration for work and pleasure.

These actions are taken as a move toward something better, but the result is leaving behind much of what has preserved indigenous cultures for centuries. One observer of the Australian indigenous sums up the situation succinctly: “The young people only care about the outside now.” [11] The most visible changes are those of replacing traditional clothing with Western dress and favoring international food over traditional fare. The most important change is that mass media culture is replacing traditional culture.

— Footnotes for page 3 —

7 United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, quoted in Addo, 2001.
8 United Nations Development Programme, 2001, pp. 30—31.
9 Odasz, 2000, p. 3.
10 Forsgren.
11 Wuagneux.

These effects are well documented, both in terms of origin and transmission medium of information. Nicolas Ostler points out, “Modern media have produced a strange phenomenon, giving children a source of knowledge about the world which is independent of the knowledge that comes from their elders in their own community. [Since] it conveys a sense of wealth that is not available in most places… it is not surprising that children are seduced by it.” [12] Not only do new sources lure youth away from traditional information sources, the way information is presented is also seductive, as Menou describes: “A visual tradition is replacing the oral or written ones in many cultures, or heavily supplementing them. And an entire generation, having been raised with television, videos and computer games, derives its information from still and moving images rather than the printed word.” [13]

Perhaps the most important barometer of cultural strength is the use of traditional language. Adults who have seen their lives limited by speaking only a tribal language often encourage their children to learn such dominant languages as Arabic, Bengali, English, French, Hindi, Malay, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. They know these languages will offer more economic opportunities for their children. Many parents, educators, and policy makers view development of multiple-language proficiency as desirable. [14] Unfortunately, others put little emphasis on passing down traditional language. Still others have described bilingual education as a poor use of limited resources and as a means to continue to hold back the indigenous. Therefore, the move toward a handful of dominant languages poses a serious threat to many of the 6,000 estimated surviving languages.

ICTs in Indigenous Populations

Technology is neither positive nor negative, nor is it neutral. — Melvin Kranzberg. [15]

Not all countries need to be on the cutting edge of global technological advance. But in the network age every country needs the capacity to understand and adapt global technologies for local needs…. In this environment the key to a country’s success will be unleashing the creativity of its people. [16]

As we begin to understand the interconnected nature of our planet and all of its inhabitants, it is clear that no one should be excluded from the nascent Information Age and the potential it holds to solve collaboratively the many environmental and social problems we face. Some indigenous groups feel that ICTs are not a priority, such as the Indian participant in the 1997 Global Knowledge conference who asked, “Our village does not have running water. Why should we have running data?” [17] Others have expressed concern that community telecenters would be used as a means to take information from the community. [18] While these concerns are valid and must be addressed, many indigenous groups also sense that the ICT revolution holds something for them and are seeking inclusion. Whether an individual or community can move into the Information Age depends on policy, costs, and local empowerment.

At differing speeds, governments around the world are adopting policies that permit the private sector to expand communications networks and services. Privatization of telephone companies and free-market competition have spurred tremendous investment in infrastructure and a rapid increase in coverage. It is undeniable that privatization has many negative consequences, because deals made often favor the interests of private companies over the interests of the population. However, Chile and Sri Lanka have provided positive models. [19]

— Footnotes for page 4 —

12 Ostler, 1999.
13 Addo, 2001.
14 Tucker, 1999.
15 Weinstein, 1997, p. 190.
16 United Nations Development Programme, 2001, p. 5.
17 Cisler, 1998.
18 Rodriguez Sotres, 2001.
19 United Nations Development Programme, 2001, p. 5.

Further, while monopolies continue to prevail in a high percentage of countries for traditional services such as telephony, the newer services such as Internet and digital cellular are dominated by competitive arrangements. [20]

Infrastructure problems are also being solved by the private sector and public interests. New wireless technologies are lowering costs and reducing geographic barriers to connectivity. Large initiatives such as Africa One are helping to create a backbone that will be able to handle increased network traffic.

Policy reforms, privatization, and infrastructure all help to make ICTs universally available; however, equipment costs and recurring costs such as telephone charges are potential barriers to universal access. Exponential growth in computing power and a logarithmic drop in cost continues to be the norm in computer-related industries. “Moore’s law predicts the doubling of computing power every 18–24 months due to the rapid evolution of microprocessor technology. Gilder’s law predicts the doubling of communications power every six months—a bandwidth explosion—due to advances in fibre-optic network technologies.” [21] Meanwhile, “the cost of one megabit of storage fell from $5,257 in 1970 to $0.17 in 1999” [22] and continues to fall as new mediums such as re-recordable CD-ROMs become prevalent.

Meanwhile, “the Internet has grown exponentially, from 16 million users in 1995 to more than 400 million users in 2000—and to an expected 1 billion users in 2005… . In Latin America Internet use is growing by more than 30% a year—though that still means that only 12% of individuals will be connected by 2005. Broader expansion is limited by low household incomes.”23 While costs are going down, they are still disproportionately high for third world populations. “Monthly Internet access charges amount to 1.2% of average monthly income for a typical U.S. user, compared with 278% in Nepal and 191% in Bangladesh.” [24] Although costs are high, alternative forms of information exchange are often more costly. For example, “E-mailing a 40-page document from Chile to Kenya costs less than 10 cents, faxing it about $10, sending it by courier $50.” [25]

As individuals, organizations, and communities are able to cross the digital divide, they find themselves in a connected world in which the opportunities for global communication, accessing information, and publishing are nearly equal for all. The challenge to any development project involving ICTs is to help the beneficiaries move through four growth steps as defined by Odasz: [26]

  • Mastery of individual self-directed learning skills
  • Mentoring and teaching others to develop their skills and confidence to become self-directed learners
  • Citizenship, local and global: Taking action for what you believe in
  • Learning-to-Earn for individual, familial, community, and cultural sustainability

Only an indigenous community that has reached step four of this process is truly empowered to apply ICTs in a beneficial way to its community.

Negative Consequences

The weak must speak to the strong in the language of the strong… . The Darwinian way of the world bears some responsibility, globalization does the rest: movies, television, Reeboks, and the Internet. [27]

— Footnotes for page 5 —

20 Ibid., p. 82.
21 Ibid., p. 30.
22 Ibid., p. 2.
23 Ibid., p. 35.
24 Ibid., p. 80.
25 Ibid., p. 30.
26 Odasz, 2000, p. 13.
27 Shorris, 2000, p. 38.

Commitment to technology means acceptance of certain social structures and orientations, and implies the adoption of certain values of the technology as well as the values of its originating source. [28]

Well before the advent of the Internet, television and radio had already put an end to pristine indigenous cultures uncontaminated by Western culture. Reaching far beyond the limits of electric grids, battery-powered televisions and radios have long brought information, entertainment, and a new set of values to indigenous communities. To this end, “Technologies are no longer regarded as neutral instruments…because they shape the social choice mechanisms available to the communities that use them.” [29]

Perhaps the most troubling issue affecting traditional societies integrating into the global village is the
lowering of elders’ self-worth:

In most cases, indigenous communities facing development projects see a new information source as a combination of threat and salvation, but always as an authority—one that takes the place of a source of information within the community. The result is a corrosion of communal capacity. Internal information sources (often the elders) are considered less important; they lose value within the group, and the group loses value as a whole. When external information is considered “right,” community members think that they have been “wrong”; that those once thought of as wise are, in fact, ignorant. Respect breaks down, and community members stop seeing themselves as a problem-solving group. Cooperative, interdependent behaviors begin to disintegrate. Even more damaging, this new source of knowledge has no provision for exchange. Group members ask: “If I am now being told without being asked in return, where is my self-worth? What do I have to offer?” [30]

A related concern is that, despite the democracy the Internet offers, the information flow continues to be predominately north-to-south. [31] South-to-south flow, say among indigenous groups in neighboring countries, has not yet flourished, nor has south-to-north flow. This subrealization of indigenous groups’ full potential means that, although connected, they remain marginalized.

A Harmonious Integration

Imagination is more important than knowledge. —Albert Einstein [32]

It is indisputable that bringing ICTs to indigenous communities also brings risks and challenges. However, denial of their potential poses an even greater threat. “No traditional culture will be well-served by denying the reality of our fast changing world, or the value of more accessible knowledge and education.” [33] To get ahead in the modern world without losing their heritage, indigenous communities need to develop a biculturism that enables them to move between two cultures and to combine certain elements of each harmoniously. This goes beyond speaking Maya-K’iche’ and eating tortillas at home, but speaking Spanish and eating pizza with friends. In a digital world, it means Internet chats in indigenous languages, indigenous web pages, multimedia CD-ROMs for learning indigenous languages, and cultural information published by indigenous groups for a global audience. These are proven examples of how traditional knowledge and modern technology can be blended.

— Footnotes for page 6 —

28 de Horowitz quoted in Addo, 2001.
29 Hall quoted in Addo, 2001.
30 Wuagneux, .
31 Afele, 2002, p. 38.
32 Odasz, 2000, p. 5.
33 Ibid., p. 82.

Student projects in many countries have shown the benefits of careful integration of technology and cultural content. The online environment lets students explore and invest in their cultural identity by discussing with students near and far and by publishing their own work. Students have come out of these projects with a stronger sense of belonging to their indigenous group and a deeper commitment to their language and culture. It is important to remember that, “Knowledge sharing does much more than pass on information; it adds to the self-esteem and self-worth of those sharing, and allows group members to see each other as capable.” [34]

The following section discusses how these ideals can be put into practice. Easy access to an infinite amount of information offers new possibilities for peoples who have never had access to world-class libraries. Virtual communities of interest allow for collaborative linguistic and cultural research. Further, the Internet permits mutual support and knowledge sharing among indigenous groups around the globe, who face similar issues despite geographic differences. Multimedia learning is also discussed as an ideal medium for transmitting knowledge that traditionally has been passed down by oral tradition, song, and dance. The examples presented are simply meant to pique the reader’s imagination with what is possible.

Pro-Indigenous Technology Interventions

Let us put our heads together and see what life we will make for our children.
—Sitting Bull [35]

Even the most developed countries are still experimenting with how best to take advantage of the new technologies that have become commonplace in the last two decades. Fortunately, many indigenous groups in developed countries were early adopters, such as the Oneida tribe in New York, which had a tribal web page before the White House had one.36 These pioneers have generated significant experience, showing what is possible and how to go about technology projects.

Of course, conditions in developing countries are much different from those in the developed world. Yet, increasingly simpler and less expensive technologies and improved infrastructure mean that developing countries can also leapfrog over some of the challenges posed to early adopters.

Implementation risks are an ever-present concern. The most threatening, especially in technology projects, is sustainability. There must be a financial commitment and strategy to maintain and renew the equipment as well as a human commitment to retain knowledgeable people who can keep the equipment running. Further, the initiatives much be designed so that ICTs actually do strengthen the indigenous community rather than serving as a means of weakening them.

The following pages present 10 kinds of interventions. Details of specific technologies and target populations have been purposely limited to keep the focus on what one can do rather than what others have done.

National Policies and Access Initiatives

Before indigenous groups can take ownership of ICTs, they must cross the digital divide. Numerous projects worldwide have created clusters of telecenters that are serving as pilots to discover and demonstrate possible uses of ICTs. However, broad use and sustainable local ownership will not be possible until indigenous communities have affordable, easy, and reliable access to these technologies. All developing countries are facing the acute challenge of how to make these technologies available to the poor and those in rural areas, indigenous or not. Efforts must be made simultaneously at the national policy level and the local level.

— Footnotes for page 7 —

34 Wuagneux, .
35 Odasz, 2000.
36 Polly, 1998.

At the national level, the key issue is competitiveness and regulation of the telecom industry. It has been observed that,

In many countries, access to IT remains hampered by government control of the telecommunications sector. Many observers have noted that, to become full participants in the information age, such countries will have to reform their systems, ceding a greater role to a competitive private sector. Moving beyond pilot implementation of ICT projects toward a strong national system will require an enormous infusion of capital, the type of investment that has traditionally come from private corporations that operate within a stable regulatory environment. [37]

However, privatization must be carefully controlled, and government regulation of the telecommunications industry must include mechanisms to reduce rather than widen the digital divide. Developing countries are especially susceptible to poor policies, inadequate regulation, and lack of transparency. [38] Free-market competition or government control can foster competitive pricing of services by establishing special pricing for schools. [39] Progressive telecom privatization deals should include explicit conditions that encourage investment in infrastructure in rural areas.

Innovative policies designed with the interests of indigenous populations in mind are necessary as well.

The World Development Report [1999], for example, suggests that governments should create policies that foster the acquisition and creation of knowledge by tapping global knowledge, creating local knowledge, defining, enforcing and rewarding intellectual property rights. Governments should also increase people’s capabilities to absorb knowledge by decentralizing education, give more power to those with most information, focus public resources on those who need them most—the poor and girls—and encourage the use of new technologies to improve the quality of education and broaden access. [40]

These activities will permit whole nations, rather than isolated groups, to participate in the Information Age.

While national policies are being reformed, local access initiatives can work at the grassroots level to connect target groups so they can reap the benefits of ICTs immediately. Development work must help indigenous groups to connect to technologies and take ownership of them.

Incredible advances in bandwidth and wireless connectivity indicate that geographic limits are becoming less of a barrier. Satellite-based Internet connections offer the same bandwidth and the same price whether they are located in an urban hub or in the most remote village. Inexpensive wireless units permit sharing of an Internet signal around a village. Costs continue to drop. Development projects must study the region to be connected carefully and choose the most practical connectivity options.

Since individual ownership of computers and Internet connections ranges from difficult to impossible for most third world indigenous groups, community access centers are the most common means to provide access to specific target populations. These centers work much like Internet cafes and can be used as an integral part of all the interventions discussed in this paper. They build on the successful model of community telephones, generally offering services such as the Internet, desktop publishing, photocopies,

— Footnotes for page 8 —

37 LearnLink, 2001a, p. 32.
38 United Nations Development Programme, 2001, p. 4.
39 Often referred to as “e-rates”
40 Addo, 2001.

telephone, fax, research assistance, and courses. Successful centers feature “public access; an informal, welcoming environment; adequate security; friendly, knowledgeable staff, and/or volunteers; well-maintained, reliable computer equipment, peripherals and connectivity; a variety of training programs and services; and a business plan, including strategies for self-sustainability.” [41]

These centers currently provide access for many indigenous populations. Brazilian indigenous groups are among the beneficiaries of The Committee for Democracy in Information Technology, CDI, which had created 208 “information technology and citizenship schools” [42] by 2001. Guatemalan Mayans benefit from centers being installed in bilingual teacher-training schools [43] and by centers created through chambers of commerce for local economic development. [44] The Songhai centers in Benin give access to local farmers and other community members. [45]

These centers, by definition, are public places and serve all community members who have the capacity to pay. Development projects that wish to favor certain groups have used a number of strategies, including vouchers, promotional events, and culturally sensitive orientations, to introduce their target beneficiaries to all these centers offer.

Making access available to populations is not the end, but rather a means to help them take ownership of the technology. Programs and policies must “move beyond connectivity, to promote the social use and appropriation of the Internet, and to improve the conditions and enabling environments, while simultaneously minimizing risks and threats so that the Internet can effectively contribute to development… . It is far more advantageous to use ICTs as a means to enhance existing practices than to merely promote ICT use.” [46] For indigenous communities, this means that projects must be familiar with local culture and local organizations and work with them.

A World of Information

Knowledge is like light. Weightless and intangible, it can easily travel the world, enlightening the lives of people everywhere. Yet billions of people still live in the darkness of poverty. [47]

As indigenous groups increase their level of interaction with dominant cultures and global society, their need for information grows as well. Mainstream media often provide inadequate coverage of subjects of interest to a certain community. Further, media such as newspaper and television may not reach distant populations and seldom are available in the local language. However, ICTs bring an endless supply of information to any community. Creative access and local dissemination of this information within a community will provide residents with timely, useful, and relevant information. This can include people directly accessing information from a community access center, the Internet combined with local radio to extend the former’s reach, and virtual education and training opportunities.

Information is power. This tenet has traditionally limited the power of geographically isolated and information-deprived indigenous groups. A crop buyer from a major city knows what fair prices are but will not be able to take advantage of a local farmer who has just checked selling prices on the Internet. Indigenous groups striving for inclusion in national politics must stay up-to-date on current affairs and monitor specific issues closely. The Internet permits them to do that. Information about agricultural practices and new products is available as well. Opportunities for project funding, scholarships, and participation in events may reach indigenous communities too late to be taken advantage of, yet are instantly available on the Internet.

— Footnotes for page 9 —

41 LearnLink, 2001a, p. 4.
42 United Nations Development Programme, p. 86-7
43 Proyecto Enlace Quiché, 2002a.
44 AGEXPRONT, n.d.
45 Academy for Educational Development, n.d.
46 Gómez and Martinez, 2001.
47 World Bank Development Report quoted in Addo, 2001.

Clearly, we may be far from the day when the average indigenous farmer uses the Internet. However, many local information intermediaries, are using ICTs to obtain relevant information and transmit it locally. Telecenter staff of the InforCauca program in Colombia search for information on the Internet that is relevant to the interests of the indigenous population, including national events, women’s issues, human rights, and reports from news agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government agencies. This information is transported (in print form or on diskette) by bus two hours to the Nasa Radio station, where it is broadcast in the Nasa Yuwe language. [48]

Another example is Kothmale Community Radio in Sri Lanka [49], which uses radio as a gateway to the Internet for its listeners in remote rural communities. Children or their teachers send requests for information about school topics for which no local resources exist; other listeners may also submit requests. The broadcasters search for the information on the Internet, download it and make it available by constructing a broadcast around the information, mailing it to the school or placing it in the radio station’s open-access resource centre. The resource centre provides free Internet access and a library with computer databases, CD-ROMs, downloaded literature and print materials. This mediated access brings the Internet’s resources to rural and underserved communities. And community rebroadcasting can relay the information in local languages, rather than English, the dominant language of the Internet. [50]

These same technologies can bring opportunities for formal study and training to people who otherwise would be forced to travel hours to reach a university or other training center. Universities are still just beginning to decentralize and offer virtual courses and degrees. Connected communities will be able to take advantage of these opportunities as they become available. Meanwhile, institutions are having success with computer-mediated professional development. The time and expense involved in providing training for professionals in the field often limits the number of training sessions and other types of support provided to them. Online training in their communities eliminates travel costs and time.

Institutional Capacity Building

Sustainable development is best achieved by strengthening existing institutions. Introduction of ICTs can be a catalyst for organizational change as well as a cost-effective means to allow indigenous groups to work more efficiently and more effectively. However, “technology alone cannot achieve these desired outcomes… . To enable new electronic technologies to provide durable and fundamental benefit, they must be coupled with changes in values, attitudes, behaviors, skills, and knowledge, all of which comprises organizational culture.” [51]

— Footnotes for page 10 —

48 Rodriguez Sotres, 2001, p. 11.
49 See
50 United Nations Development Programme, 2001, p. 87.
51 LearnLink, 2001c, p. 6.

Three general strategies for using ICTs in institutional capacity building have been defined:

  • Office computer networks to improve administrative efficiency, management capacity, internal communication, and professional development.
  • Information management systems to enhance educational and outreach programs by obtaining, creating, repurposing, using, and distributing more and better development information with greater efficiency and at lower cost.
  • Electronic networks and virtual communities to enhance organizational learning and advocacy, increase knowledge of national and global policy issues, create new communities, enable collaborative programs, gain access to critical resources, and improve professional development. [52]

After initial installation and training, one of the immediate and most obvious gains is improved efficiency. Geographically isolated offices will be able to exchange information by email or telephone without the delay of mail services or travel expenses. As an example of tremendous potential savings, Canada is wiring its Northwest Territories in hope of improving services while reducing government travel costs, which were $17 million during 1993–94.53 Within local offices, access to and organization of information will also be improved.

Advocacy for change is a key part of the mission of many public institutions and NGOs serving indigenous populations. “A critical part of successful advocacy is communicating news and the institution’s perspective on important issues to as many people, especially primary clients and decision-makers, as possible. And successfully communicating news and perspectives demands that institutions create and distribute accurate and compelling messages quickly, in a variety of ways, and as cheaply as possible.” [54] Common examples of how this is being done are:

  • E-mail alerts for fast communication
  • Electronic newsletters lower production and distribution costs
  • Announcements on distribution lists to inform a larger community
  • Organization web site
  • Electronic conferences

Panama’s Kuna Nation one of many groups benefiting from the Internet. Since getting connected, its members have “become strong international advocates of environmental issues. Some of their members have been able to establish strong collaborative relationships with environmental organizations. Environmentalists have invited their leaders to serve as consultants for international agencies, to develop plans that defend the environment, and to work for human rights for indigenous peoples.” [55]

Just as important as getting information out about issues of concern is the ability to bring in important information in a timely manner. Indigenous journalists in the Northwest Territories have observed that the Internet “equalizes governments and the people they govern. Suddenly, we have far more power to access, communicate, and distribute information among ourselves than we had before. It corrects the traditional power imbalance between governments and those they govern.” [56]

It should be remembered that “concepts about information…are deeply imbedded in culture, and are extremely difficult to change.” [57] These concepts include how people perceive, get, value, share, and use information. “To reap the benefits from investments in improving [information management] systems, project planners and institutional leaders must assess and understand the cultural and perceptual underpinnings of local information management systems.” [58]

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