3.3.3 Best practices

The best practices in the field of technology and infrastructure will be presented in the same way as the Key elements. The best practices with regard to public policy will be discussed first, followed by those in the field of methodology or organization for the choice of appropriate technology.

With respect to public policy, the experience of Canada in the National Research Project on Telemedicine in the First Nations has been noted, as it incorporates a broad research phase in order to determine appropriate technology. All the characteristics that have been highlighted are included, and results in the provision of technology and specific equipment for each of the Indigenous communities have been selected, commensurate with their needs and characteristics.

With respect to methodology, it is interesting to point out the work in technology selection adopted by the Nepal Wireless Networking project, which was presented by ITU Study Group 2 in the theme of rural communication. This community project initiative is an example of technology selection that incorporates many of the elements mentioned in the methodological part of this document. Moreover, it represents the clearest application of the phrase uttered by Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

The Nepal Wireless Networking project arose from the aspiration of several communities to find ways to connect themselves with the nearest city10, Pokhara. At the start of the project, two European volunteers brought two wireless cards, with which they began to experiment, using some homemade antennas. Before this, local people had already sought other options such as VSATs, satellite phones and microwave antennas, but the community was unable to cover the cost of such technologies.

At the time that the project was launched, WiFi technology was new, and it was not known if it was effective over long distances. The telecommunication engineers, with whom the community of Nangi was in contact, thought it was impossible to bridge the 40 kilometers between Nangi and Pokhara. However, tests were successful, and the community chose to adopt this technology for several reasons: (1) it was the most economically viable technology on the market, (2) it was the easiest to learn to use, (3) it used very little energy and therefore was easily adapted to solar energy and, (4) the cost of operation and maintenance was minimal. At the time of the report of the study group, the equipment operated by the community11 was Motorola Canopy, which employs spectrum in either 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz bands for long distance.

After its commencement, this project received international financial support from ITU and other bodies for the purchase of equipment. Today, the project has become a community company directed by a secondary school in the region. The project now provides the district of Myagdi Nepal with educational support, telemedicine services, local electronic commerce and VoIP telephony.

The community followed a logical process to select the technology – something that government agencies sometimes fail to do when establishing national communication programs in remote regions.

The challenge for Indigenous peoples is to ensure that new technologies are culturally adapted to the specific needs of each community. Therefore, the selection and deployment of the technology to be used has to be tailored to benefit Indigenous communities. Otherwise, connecting the community can run counter to community values, such as autonomy, that Indigenous communities seek to strengthen. Moreover, the sustainability of the project will undoubtedly be affected.12
 

10 For example, the Indigenous community of Nangi where no phone, internet or health services is to be found, is two days away fron Pokhara on foot.

11 For more information about the network infrastructure consult the Study Question case study: 10-2/2 ID227

12 Srinivasan, R. (2006). Indigenous, Ethnic and Cultural Articulations of New Media. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 9(4), 497–518