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Digital Divides and the 'First Mile': Framing First Nations Broadband Development in Canada

Author(s): Rob McMahon | Susan O'Donnell | Richard Smith | Brian Walmark | Brian Beaton | Rob McMahon | Susan O'Donnell | Richard Smith | Brian Walmark | Brian Beaton | Jason Simmonds

Journal: International Indigenous Policy Journal
ISSN 1916-5781

Volume: 2;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: broadband policy | broadband networks | community networks | First Nations issues | digital divide | policy

Across Canada, rural and remote First Nations face a significant 'digital divide'. As self-determining autonomous nations in Canada, these communities are building broadband systems to deliver public services to their members and residents. To address this challenge, First Nations are working towards a variety of innovative, locally driven broadband development initiatives. This paper contributes a theoretical discussion that frames our understanding of these initiatives by drawing on the paradigm of the 'First Mile' (Paisley & Richardson, 1998). We argue that broadband development policy in Canada must be re-framed to address the specific needs of First Nations. The First Mile position foregrounds community-based involvement, control, and ownership: a consideration we suggest has particular resonance for First Nations. This is because it holds potential to move beyond the historical context of paternalistic, colonial-derived development policies, in the context of broadband systems development. We argue First Nations broadband projects offer on-the-ground examples of a First Mile approach, and call for more research in this area.
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