March 22, 2011
Building on a 2010 SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis grant on the use of broadband networks in northern and remote First Nations communities, Richard Smith has received a $227,675 Public Outreach grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
The grant is titled “Community-based broadband development and applications in Inuit and First Nations communities.” Smith’s colleague Susan O’Donnell, at University of New Brunswick, will be co-investigator. Rob McMahon (PhD candidate in the School of Communication) is the primary research assistant. In addition, the project is strongly supported by a group of First Nations and Inuit partner organizations, including Ontario’s Northern Chiefs Tribal Council (Keewaytinook Okimakanak, or KO), Atlantic Canada’s First Nation Help Desk, and First Nations Education Council (FNEC), based in Wendake, Quebec.
Broadband-enabled digital networks and technologies offer communities the opportunity to engage in a variety of development projects. First Nations and Inuit communities provide many examples of how technologies are used in health, education, government, and culture and language. Communities, however, need to be involved in the earliest stages of designing and implementing these technologies in order to best support local applications. It is not enough for a community to simply be ‘connected’; a community must also be connected in ways that support sustainable, locally-driven development practices.
Our research will tell the stories of local, “first mile” development practices, countering the assumption implicit in industry-driven approaches that only involve communities at the ‘last’ step in development processes. We will highlight community-based successes through short (three minute) videos about innovative community-based broadband projects made by First Nations and Inuit community researchers; and online resources for communities and policy makers. We will also facilitate national and regional online conferences to highlight stories and engage communities and policy makers. We will also create an interactive website that showcases the videos and provides digitized material that visitors can use to create their own ‘mash-up’ videos.