4. What is the Role of Indigenous Peoples in the Installation and Operation of Access Centres Located in Schools in their Communities?

Just as the government of each country must carry out certain actions to ensure the development of the ICTs in Indigenous communities, the communities themselves have at their disposal several actions for ensuring that ICT projects placed in their communities are sustainable and contribute to their development.

Although the national strategies for developing ICTs in Indigenous communities are a very important contribution, the role of the communities themselves is essential. There are many examples across the world where communities have managed to establish sustainable projects in spite of political indifference towards the development of ICTs. Through networking and organization, grass-roots projects have often managed to transform national politics.

This chapter will talk about the basic steps that an Indigenous community, or a community located in an isolated region, can carry out in order to achieve the conditions for sustainability of an ICT project and the use of ICTs for development.

The path winds from from local to global, and it passes through the basic steps of every community project. Yet this time it is focused on ICTs, specifically in access centres located in schools, or connectivity in schools for deployment in the community.

The importance of Indigenous community participation is covered elsewhere in this module. This section traces the path to be followed by a community that wants to ensure a successful process of community adoption of ICTs and wants to contribute to the creation of an enabling environment of ICTs for Indigenous peoples at a national level.

According to the way in which we have designed it, this path has the following stages:

  1. Discovering: The project has to find its place in the core of the community life plan. This stage is the equivalent to the birth of the soul of the project; it is what will keep it alive in the life space of the community.
  2. Organizing: The project needs to find the people and the community spaces that will help it to develop. This stage is similar to the birth of the body of the project -- it arms and legs, with which it will be able to start moving.
  3. Defining: The project must be clearly defined and based on a plan of execution. To continue with the analogy, this stage is the creation of the mind of the project.
  4. Connecting: In this stage, the project has to find other, similar projects that it can align itself with. The best way is to start by looking for the closest ones and then to join forces with them. During this stage, the project is already complete -- it has a soul, a body and a mind -- but one can never be a full person without friends, thus this is the right moment to look for them and become part of a new group.
  5. Networking: The project organizers will notice that there are many more projects like it, sharing a lot in common, and that together they can achieve the changes they are looking for. At this point, the project embarks on a journey to know the world. It is connected to the ground where it was born and it participates with other projects in activities that generate common benefits for all those who are like it.
  6. Telling and reflecting about its story: The project has a full existence. It is now growing, and it needs to see the path it is taking and the way it is growing.

As with any other path, the road to a successful ICT project is one that can be started at different points. Sometimes we start in the middle, and this is fine, as long as we pass through all the stages. Experience shows us that the boundaries between the stages change all the time and that some stages may even take place simultaneously.

We will follow the path as we have described it here. We will do it using case studies of processes followed by Indigenous communities, and, last but not least, we will provide a couple of questions that can help verify if any given community is following such steps in its own process.