Open Technologies in the North

Five years ago, I worked in South Africa on a project to promote media skills development in undeveloped communities. I was in a small village called Bathlabine, near Mozambique – completely isolated from modern technologies and resources.

Sometimes there was water that ran from the tap, sometimes not. Transportation was hit-and-miss. Most of the time it was 40 degrees in the shade, and public services were non-existant.

We did have access to dial-up internet though (slow connection, but useable) – it’s just that nobody understood how it worked.

As I facilitated workshops with a group of youth learning to write articles, press releases and learning basic computer and Internet skills, I began to see excitement – a sense of empowerment, and saw that the youth group I was working with benefitted greatly from their newfound Internet communications. They were mainly excited about connecting with “comrades” who were facing the same water, power and housing shortages that they were. With hundreds of kilometres between them, there was no real way for them to share experiences or pass on techniques to improve their lives.


I swear, this is relevant to the Arctic-

Needless to say, I was excited and pleased to recieve an email today from Matthew Biederman of the Arctic Perspective Initiative with a heads-up about an ambitious communications initiative that is being carried out in the Artic, aiming to empower indigenous people with networking equipment and tools in the north. It is so refreshing to see this kind of work happening in my country’s “backyard” (is it fair to say that about Canada’s north?)

It is likely the group will face many challenges, ups and downs, enthusiasm and skepticism about the power of networking tools; nonetheless, it is an ambitous project that deserves attention.

For those who live in London, UK, there will be an event held to promote the project:


Canada House, Trafalgar Square, London, UK
21 May to 30 September 2010, weekdays 10am-5.30pm


There will be further events held in Toronto, Canada and Dortmund, Germany. Check the web site for details:


More about the Arctic Perspective Initiative (from the web site):

The Arctic Perspective Initiative (API) is a non-profit, international group of individuals and organizations whose goal is to promote the creation of open authoring, communications and dissemination infrastructures for the circumpolar region. We aim to empower the North and Arctic peoples through open source technologies and applied education and training. By creating access to these technologies while promoting an open, shared network of communications and data, without a costly overhead, we can allow for further sustainable and continued development of culture, traditional knowledge, science, technology and education opportunities for peoples in the North and Arctic regions.


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