This past July, Spirit of the Sun’s program manager, Jenica Baty, along with two other panelists from Denver Metro Area non-profits, sat down with Robbie McBeath of the Open Media Foundation (OMF), for a live-streaming television event, focusing on how technology impacts non-profit organizations and the communities they serve. The program, part of the OMF’s series “Making Technology Inclusive,” explores the challenges and opportunities non-profit organizations face accessing and utilizing technology. The series aims to facilitate a meaningful dialogue about how non-profits can employ technology more effectively to better serve their communities.
On the show, Robbie includes a short clip from Aleph Molinari’s TEDevent “Let’s Bridge the Digital Divide!” In his talk, Molinari defines the digital divide as “the gap between individuals and communities that have access to information technologies and those that don’t.” With over 70% of the world’s population lacking access to technological resources, including both infrastructure and education, Molinari points out that it isn’t so much a divide as an abyss.
As Jenica mentions while on the show, nowhere is the abyss more apparent than in Native American communities in the United States. In 2010, the FCC reported that “the best evidence indicates that the broadband deployment rate on Tribal lands is less than 10 percent, and anecdotal evidence suggests that actual usage rates may be as low as 5 to 8 percent, compared to 65 percent nationwide.” While the FCC has undertaken a major initiative to expand broadband in the United States, including Indian Country, technology access and use remains minimal in Native American communities, especially on reservations.
Spirit of the Sun recognizes the importance of not only expanding broadband access throughout Indian Country, but also of providing the means for Native communities to utilize such technology. Two of our major initiatives directly address the digital divide in Indian Country: our Native Commerce Infrastructure Initiative (NCII) and our Cybersecurity Project. NCII aims to connect businesses throughout Indian Country with the global marketplace through the creation of an e-commerce website exclusively for Native American goods and services. Our Cybersecurity Project, both an educational as well an economic endeavor, seeks to implement a program to train qualified students and teachers at post-secondary Native American institutions in the growing field of Cybersecurity.
Improving the technological infrastructure and capacity of communities experiencing poverty proves essential in the world of economic and community development work. In the description of their National Broadband Plan, the FCC highlights the possible impact expanding broadband access can have in any one community, stating:
Like electricity a century ago, broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global
competitiveness and a better way of life. It is enabling entire new industries and unlocking vast new
possibilities for existing ones. It is changing how we educate children, deliver health care, manage
energy, ensure public safety, engage government, and access, organize and disseminate knowledge.
Please join Spirit of the Sun as we work to expand and employ technology throughout Indian Country; help us facilitate the future growth and success of Native American communities everywhere. Donate today or contact us with your thoughts, questions or ideas.