By Michael Lynch
Remote First Nation communities in Northern Ontario will soon have the option of connecting to multimedia services, including high-speed Internet access, tele-health, e-commerce and tele-education.
K-Net Services, a regional broadband network linking First Nations, will work with communities served by satellite to determine their information technology need for accessing high-speed data connectivity. The service will cost each community $2,700 per month.
"Each First Nation will decide to what degree it wants to participate," says Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy. He says in the past, First Nations have not benefitted from resource development.
"With this new information technology, we are in control. It’s a top priority with the NAN chiefs," Beardy says.
Delegates from 41 of NAN's 49 communities met in Thunder Bay in February to participate in the First Nations Connect conference. Also attending the conference were representatives from NAN Tribal Councils, the information technology (IT) industry and the federal government. The conference showcased IT advances already made in many of the remote communities and previewed the online opportunities that may soon become a reality.
Connecting remote First Nations to the world via multimedia services is a partnership between Keewaytinook Okimakanak (K-Net), Industry Canada and Telesat Canada.
"In the past we had to wait a couple of days for a newspaper in our communities," says K-Net executive director Geordi Kakepetum. "Now we can open our computer and read today's headlines. We no longer will have to charter flights to attend meetings. We can turn on our television and meet through video conferencing."
Topics at the Thunder Bay conference included information and communication technology in the areas of health, education, network infrastructure, First Nation communities, economic development, community planning, women and youth.
Telesat is making two channels on its new Anik F3 satellite available for the federal government to use to serve public institutions in remote areas of Canada. The two channels, or transponders, are able to provide enhanced multimedia connections for remote communities.