On Tribal Lands a Continuing Digital Divide that Gets Deeper!!

Many Navajo homes (and Native American homes in general) are too remote to access the Internet or receive cell phone reception. Some will drive up to 50 miles to reach an area with WI-FI or cell service. With gas prices over $4 a gallon the cost is just too much for most Native Americans living on the reservation. For struggling students and entrepreneurs having to travel to a remote mountain top or hotel lobby in the next town just to use the Internet or a cell phone is not a practical way to get assignments or business done. Reservations are already largely disconnected from the rest of the country. They are remote, with little opportunity, or access to education and healthcare. The dawn of the Internet age could have helped to bridge this societal gap and provided more opportunities for people living on reservations. Sadly, it has not. Tribal lands have been left out of infrastructure plans that have connected the rest of the country. Less than 10% of tribal homes have broadband internet service. It is time reservations are connected. As we talk about digital books and online classes , there are people who do not have access. I have worked in these areas with a friend who has expertise in the Native American Culture, she is of the culture.

I have worked with Karen Buller of NITI.org, which was an organization in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Once she was funded for this kind of work. Her site is still online http://www.niti.org/

The National Indian Telecommunications Institute was a dynamic, Native-founded and run organization dedicated to using the power of electronic technologies to provide American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaskan Native communities with extensive educational tools, equal opportunity and a strong voice in self-determination.

NITI’s goal was to employ advanced technology to serve American Indians, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives in the areas of education, economic development, language and cultural preservation, tribal policy issues and self-determination.

The lack of digital connectivity has contributed to staggering unemployment numbers, health problems, and flight of young people to cities. Navajos are missing out on job opportunities because they can’t check e-mail regularly. One Navajo man even missed out on a kidney transplant twice because he lacked telephone service and wasn’t contacted in time to receive the kidney. Even basic land line phone service is missing from many homes.

Progress is being made. The Obama administration stimulus package has expanded high speed internet capability in some tribal areas. This is a great step toward connectivity but there are still obstacles like lack of computers to connect, and the sheer magnitude of connecting all tribal lands. Reservations are already so far behind the rest of the country; this shouldn’t be another empty promise. In addition to the federal government providing support for digital infrastructure on tribal lands, tribal leaders need to be on board as well. Tribal lands are governed by their own set of laws and need to allow for progress to be made. Many young people on reservations are frustrated that the older generation doesn’t understand the importance of digital connectivity and they end up leaving for bigger cities with more opportunity.

Native American leaders and the U.S. government need to work to together to connect Native American lands to reliable and accessible internet and cell phone service. By signing this petition you are supporting bringing all Americans into the digital world.

The petition is here..http://forcechange.com/19378/dont-leave-native-american-tribal-lands-without-digital-connections/#gf_1


Rural Native Americans have limited access to basic phone, and emergecy 911 services.

Increase telecommunications infrastructure deployment on Tribal lands.
Increase acces to computers, the Internet, and communication tools.

FCC Policy Statement On Establishing A Government-To-Government Relationship With Indian Tribes

Here is a problem along the edges of the digital divide that most people are unaware of the perspective from Native American Tribes.

Given the fact that many Native American tribes have some land and some have casinos, people think that they live in the lap of luxury. There are a few tribes who have learned to create a business model to change the future of their children. But we have an interesting set of problems that the President has to address. For those not familiar with the cultures, here is a virtual tour if
The Four Directions project works to use technology as a catalyst for change in the schools. Recently students, teachers, community members and Four Directions personnel worked together to create a demonstration project with the National Museum of the American Indian.

Source: The 4Directions community of learners consists of 19 Bureau of Indian Affairs schools partnered with 11 private and public universities and organizations. Through technology, the community has been able to transcend geographic barriers and collaborate across the nation. Teachers and students use the Internet and World Wide Web to communicate and collaborate with 4D partners and other schools. 4Directions schools use technology to share in the diversity of various cultures and to ensure that the voices of Native people are heard in the emerging information age.
Source: http://www.4directions.org/community/index.html

I have spent time with Karen Buller, and earlier with Misty Brave, who are proponents of better education for Native American students. Karen was working with the FCC. Here is the website she created when there was funding. Most of the funding for the digital divide evaporated during the Bush administration as the nation was told that there is no, was no digital divide. Now that we can talk about it again, there is a digital divide, a technology divide, a cultural divide, an information divide and a fluency of use of new media divide.

Misty Brave is from the Pine Ridge Reservation and she and I had a debate when I first met her. We were Christa McAuliffe educators for diversity, from the NEA, NFIE.I was talking about the poverty in urban cities. She opened my eyes to the situation on the Pine Ridge Reservation and to the cultures of Native Americans in general. I have never lived 40 miles from a grocery store without a car. I have never lived where the chapter houses, as in Navajo lands are where people communicate emergencies from.

*( Cell phones have changed that a little, broadband is not available everywhere either.j

On Tribal Lands, Digital Divide Brings New Form Of Isolation

Posted: 04/20/2012 2:50 pm Updated: 04/20/2012 3:13 pm ( source- Huffington Post0

Navajo Digital Divide

Sonny Clark, 59, must drive five miles up a mountain to get cellphone service connection and 40 miles to get online.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Like many college students, Wilhelmina Tsosie must go online to complete her assignments. But unlike the vast majority of Americans, she finds that the biggest challenge in her coursework is merely getting connected.

Tsosie is a member of the Navajo Nation, the Native American community whose sprawling reservation has long been isolated from the rest of the country — an isolation now being reinforced by the digital age.

On a recent night, she endured a 30-mile drive along a dark desert highway to reach this town, her nearest access point to the Internet. She carried her laptop into a hotel that offers wireless access. In the dim light of the lobby, she hunched over the screen and finished an online exam.

Like many Navajos, Tsosie, a petite 34-year-old with glasses and a jet-black ponytail, can’t receive basic Internet service at home, because her home is too remote. She and her husband and their two young children live near the peak of a tree-covered mountain, beyond the reach of Internet service providers, forcing her to drive long distances to get online.

This has never been easy, consuming time as well as gas money. Now, with local gas prices nearing $4 a gallon, Tsosie can no longer afford frequent trips to reach the Internet. She worries about the effects on her grades. Last semester, she failed a class after missing too many assignments — the result of unreliable web access, she says.

“If I passed that class, I would have been on time for graduating,” Tsosie said. “I would have had one semester left and now I have two.”

Her husband, Ben, said the long journeys to find an Internet connection have begun to feel “hopeless.”

“Sometimes we don’t have the gas money to go 30 miles to get on the Internet,” he said.

Tsosie’s dilemma reflects the extreme difficulties many Navajos confront in seeking to connect with the rest of the world. Some park on the side of highways, climb atop roofs, or drive to the peaks of mountains just to get within range of mobile telephone service. Others travel dozens of miles to use Wi-Fi hotspots outside hotels, restaurants and chapter houses — the local community centers on the reservation. Some who lack electricity run their computers on gas-powered generators.

Native Americans have long experienced disconnection from the rest of the country — their reservations are generally placed on remote lands with little economic potential, separated from modern-day markets for goods, as well as higher education and health care. The dawn of the Internet was supposed to bridge this gap, according to the promises of prominent public officials. Fiber optics cables along with satellite and wireless links would deliver the benefits of modernity to reservations, helping lift Native American communities out of isolation and poverty. But the rise of the web as an essential platform in American life has instead reinforced the distance for the simple reason that most Native Americans have little access to the online world.

Less than 10 percent of homes on tribal lands have broadband Internet service — a rate that is lower than in some developing countries. By contrast, more than half of African Americans and Hispanics and about three-fourths of whites have high-speed access at home, according to the Department of Commerce.

Without reliable access to the Internet, many Native Americans find themselves increasingly isolated, missing out on opportunities to secure jobs, gain degrees through online classes, reach health care practitioners, and even preserve native languages and rituals with new applications that exploit the advantages of the web