1.1 Why have a module on Indigenous peoples?

ICTs are a proven and effective tool to promote social and human development in many Indigenous communities in remote regions. ICTs are a means of communication with members of the community that have left in search of a better life in the cities or even in other countries. For some Indigenous people, these technologies are a means to promote their culture in other places, to access information about events in other parts of the world or in their own country, to start educational processes, and to promote the protection of their rights. Many examples of these processes will be included in this module.

In spite of the ICT benefits that digital community centers in schools offer to Indigenous communities, in many cases these centers have been abandoned or underused by the community. The simple installation of community centers does not ensure their success. So it is useful to ask what conditions have to be promoted so that these centers become an essential step for the development of the community, instead of passing into disuse.

The success or failure of these centers in fulfilling their objectives for poverty alleviation and the improvement of life conditions of indigenous peoples is not mere coincidence. Choices made during installation can determine the success or failure of an ICT center. These choices include what technologies to embrace, how to organize community involvement, and others. In essence, if the cultural, economic, political and social characteristics of the Indigenous peoples are taken into account, as indicated by the Declaration of Principles of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), it can constitute an important step in ensuring the use of ICTs for development.

Experience has shown what steps should be taken during program development, policy design, implementation and management of school digital community centers, so that indigenous peoples can attain the benefits of ICTs, while preserving their cultural heritage. In an effort to achieve the objectives of the Special Initiative for Indigenous Peoples and Communities, issued by the World Telecommunication Development Conference of 2006, this toolkit aims to share with government bodies, sector members and Indigenous communities the knowledge obtained from this experience.