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Towards an Indigenous Approach on Bridging the Digital Divide - A Roadmap to Tunis and beyond

lundi 27 octobre 2003, par DEER Kenneth

  • Kenneth DEER
  • Indigenous Media Network, Editing Director and Focal Point for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
  • Box 1170, KAHNAWAKE Mohawk Territory, QC ; J0L 1BO, Canada
  • Tel. : +1-450-635-3050
  • Fax : +1-450-635-8479
  • e-mail :
  • web-page :

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Project Description

Knowledge, information and communication are at the core of the emerging global Information Society. Knowledge, information and communication, however, are culturally defined concepts and expressions. Also, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) - the medium for disseminating and communicating knowledge and information - are cultural products of the society that has developed them.

Indigenous Peoples have their own concepts of knowledge, information and communication and have developed their own forms of information communication. Therefore Indigenous Peoples need to take part in the Information Society on their own terms and on the basis of their cultural backgrounds, to be able to shape their future without risking to lose their cultures and identities.

Indigenous research projects are an important tool to assist in reaching these goals. They can support the development of Indigenous approaches, strategies and visions for the evolution and implementation of the Information Society - and thus protecting and promoting its cultural diversity.

The project presented here, aims to contribute to this process by addressing four major aspects :

  1. The identification and development of culturally appropriate ICT applications by Indigenous Peoples
  2. The elaboration of Indigenous approaches and strategies to bridge the digital divide
  3. The design of culturally appropriate capacity-building tools for Indigenous Peoples on ICTs and their range of possible uses
  4. The elaboration of culturally appropriate development strategies for utilization of ICTs for poverty reduction.

Research is envisioned to be carried out in all cultural-geographic Indigenous regions, namely : the Arctic Region, Central America, South America, North America, the Pacific Region, Asia, Africa and Russia. Research activities will be conducted in various steps :

1. Development of models for culturally appropriate capacity-building and information "workshops" for Indigenous Peoples. These programs will be elaborated in close co-operation with Indigenous ICT experts and using Indigenous ICT experiences in this particular region. The workshops will serve to inform Indigenous Peoples on the basics of what are ICTs and how do they function as well as on the various possibilities of their application.

2. Conducting initial surveys during these workshops These workshops will be organised for each region in close co-operation with local Indigenous partners and organisations. They will also provide a platform to carry out first surveys among participants, supplemented by an analysis of workshop discussions, on the following issues :
- the possible ICT needs of Indigenous Peoples of this regions
- their views on cultural appropriateness of ICT applications
- their views on culturally appropriate ways of equal participation in the Information Society on their own terms
- local problems of connectivity
- other obstacles towards participation in the Information Society, e.g. the question of literacy
- their views on culturally appropriate strategies and approaches to overcome the digital divide in their regions.

3. In-depth surveys in selected communities The results of these initial surveys will be used as a starting point to carry out in-depth community surveys on the above mentioned issues. These surveys will be carried out in close collaboration with local Indigenous partners.

4. Elaboration of survey summaries   The analysis and evaluation of these surveys will serve as a basis to identify :
- preliminary strategies and visions of Indigenous Peoples of the various regions towards the evolution and implementation of the Information Society in their areas
- perceived challenges and potentials of the developing Information Society with regard to the survival of their cultures and identities
- approaches to the establishment of an equal partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous actors in the Information Society
- Indigenous "plans of action" to bridge the digital divide in their regions on their own terms

Research activities will be presented during a Conference on "Indigenous Peoples and the Digital Divide", which could take place as a parallel event to the Tunis part of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005. This Conference should bring together Indigenous Peoples from the regions, who have participated in the workshops and/or the surveys, Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and the scientific community, Indigenous and non-Indigenous ICT experts and practitioners, Indigenous and non-Indigenous development practitioners, donors and the private sector. This conference should be a platform to identify a plan of action to be carried out beyond 2005 to assist Indigenous Peoples to bridge the digital divide on their own terms.

Curriculum Vitae

Kenneth Deer is co-founder, editing director and WSIS focal point of the Indigenous Media Network, an international organization of Indigenous media workers. He is the owner, publisher and editor of the weekly Mohawk community newspaper The Eastern Door, which he founded in 1992.

Since 1994 he is coordinator and often co-chairman of the Indigenous Caucus at the United Nations in Geneva. In 2000 he was chairman/rapporteur of the United Nations Workshop on Indigenous Media in New York. In 2002 he was Media Co-ordinator for the Indigenous Caucus at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. In 2003 he co-ordinated a study on Indigenous Peoples and the Information Society to produce an Indigenous position paper for the World Summit on the Information Society.

Kenneth Deer has a university education as a social councilor. From 1971-1987 he worked in Indigenous education, partly as the director of the Kahnawake Survival School. He is founding member of the First Nations Education Council of Quebec and the National Indian Education Council (NIEC). From 1983 to 1989 he was NIEC co-chairman. In this context, he took part in overseeing a $4 million study on Native education in Canada as member of the supervisory body (1985 - 1988). From 1987-1990 Kenneth Deer was Coordinator of the Mohawk Nation Office in Kahnawake, a secretariat of the People of the Longhouse (part of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy). From 1990 to 1992 he served as Traditional Chief of his community.

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