Geordi Kakepetum, Keewaytinook Okimakanak's Executive Director, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Paul Minister presenting a strategy to complete the work required to support all First Nations to develop local broadband infrastructure and uses for the network. Click here to read the entire letter and the AFN resolution (117K PDF). Hopefully other Aboriginal communities and organizations will send similar letters to the federal government encouraging further investment and development in these ICT tools.
"At the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) gathering in Charlottetown this past summer the attached Chiefs’ resolution (First Nation Telecommunication Technologies and Broadband Infrastructure) was tabled by Chief Raymond Mason from Keewaywin First Nation. The resolution recognizes the socio-economic importance of broadband connectivity in First Nations across the country. It directs the AFN leadership to ensure that Industry Canada (both regional and national programs) complete the job of ensuring that all Aboriginal communities have the opportunity to develop and maintain their own broadband infrastructure. The resolution also clarifies the role that other Federal government departments such as Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and Health Canada need to undertake by supporting local and regional applications such as telehealth, e-learning, and e-commerce to ensure the ongoing sustainability of these community broadband networks. ...
It is important that any investment by the Federal government in the development of local broadband infrastructure, includes parallel investments in the ongoing development and operation of the different applications that address local needs. Strategic investments by INAC, Health Canada, Human Resource Development, Canadian Heritage supporting local broadband networks are required so they can remain sustainable. There are no federal or provincial programs that provide the necessary funds to maintain the operation of these services. This gap in funding must be addressed and eliminated.
There are various pilot projects that fund innovative services such as the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Telehealth Initiative or the Keewaytinook Internet High School. But these innovative projects are at risk unless operational funds are supported by the appropriate departments. Strategic capital investment from FedNor and other partners have made it possible to introduce local telemedicine, teleradiology, high school programs and other applications but now the need and challenge is to ensure the ongoing operation of these services.
The Auditor General noted in several reports about the challenges that First Nation communities are faced with as they try to work with the department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Effective use of these new information communication technologies (ICTs) by INAC, Health Canada and First Nations will support the development of improved local services and opportunities. But these improvements will only occurred if these departments and their staff have the program dollars required to support the ongoing operation of these technologies and the broadband connections so the services can be sustained.
Today, federal regional agencies such as FedNor have the flexibility to compliment other programs such BRAND, that supports First Nations in completing the necessary local infrastructure builds. This type of program flexibility ensures that all communities, even those with limited financial and human resources are now able to compete for broadband infrastructure and develop local applications that address local needs. The National Satellite Initiative is supporting local regional economic opportunities through partnerships such as the Kativik Regional Government in northern Quebec with funding support from CED and their work with Keewaytinook Okimakanak in northern Ontario with strategic infrastructure investments by FedNor that now make satellite broadband available in nearly 30 remote Aboriginal communities in these inter-provincial regions. ..."