INFOSTRUCTURE...the key to rural broadband success

Real People First!

The internet and data communications have almost become a panacea, a proposed quick fix, for solving rural Alaska's economic problems. Community leaders, economy "experts" and politicians alike all have jumped on the 'bandwidth' wagon...how many times have you heard about how proposed village websites selling crafts will solve the woes of the many in our rural communities. Look closely and you'll probably find...it's just not happening!

Alaska, the federal govt., taxpayers, and private companies have spent millions of dollars setting up data communications infrastructure, and while there have been some positive ramifications and 'showcase' projects...it is still unclear what the social and economic impact has been and what the future holds. There are way more questions than proofs...

?s Is video conferencing an affective tool for delivering distance education - 'show me the learning' that has taken place, improved test results, responses from students?

?s What impact has the Internet had on Economic development at the village level - 'show me the money' that's passing hands?

?s Who is using telework strategies to impact families and communities...'show me the jobs' being developed and hired for?

While the 'promises' of the Internet and Connectivity in the villages have become numerous, the impact as a whole has been minimal. Data communications and associated technologies are not ubiquitous across our region...and you've got to ask the question, if they were?, would it really be showing significant impact.

It is clear that infrastructure alone is not the only solution...service alone is clearly not the answer to the delivering on 'the data communications promises' being presented to rural Alaskans!

Infostructure Remains the Key
I can recall times, while coordinating the first 'user-based' rural telecommunications consortium The Distance Delivery Consortium (DDC) ... I would have people call me up and ask, "I want IT - how do I get IT! You have IT, I think I want and need IT, can you give IT to me?" After some discussion, I might figure out 'the IT' that they wanted was email access or folks were looking to get internet access or something related to telecommunications services...more often than not IT was related to a service the consortium wasn't providing...BUT they knew about IT, they knew IT was important, and they wanted IT! NOW!

People in the rural Alaska are not foolish or hasty:

Folks know they need a computer to be competitive in today's world and that there are economy issues attached!

Often-times they are required to computer-cate at many levels...business, work and personal!

Rural Alaskans understand the concept of access vs service (See access vs service )http://alaskaruralbroadband.blogspot.com/2004/10/message-to-rca-commissioners.html

We have not come that far in the interim, since the DDC, when it comes to our villages. Folks are continually presented with the opportunities that data communications services and computer technologies promise...they know what IT is and that IT's imperative...but the opportunities are still not 'real-time' in the villages.

In regards to fostering the ubiquitous use of computers, technology and data-based telecommunications services in the villages...there is very little local capacity building taking place.

Infostructure is an under-used term. Way under-used! It is synonymous with the 'people part' of infrastructure development. It is the way that the technology being delivered is framed-up, promoted and presented to the end user. It is what leads the end user to the adoption and ubiquitous use of the technologies and infrastructure being presented. Supporting infostructure development along with infrastructure deployment is central to delivering on the promising developments Internet and Data Communications Access bring to rural communities.

'Build it (infrastructure) and they will come' is a dangerous fallacy...it's simply not true!
I'm in the village...I have a computer - who's going to fix it when it breaks? I'm on the computer, who's gonna help me when it freezes up? I've bought an internet connection who's gonna help me configure? I'm cognizant of all of the above; I'm a world class artist who will help me with a web-page? My tribal organization needs a network, who's going to install and maintain it?

The answer to these questions can be addressed in one word... Infostructure!

Infostructure / Capacity Building at the village level should include: local /culturally relevant technical support, local /culturally relevant educational opportunities, real bandwidth, and most importantly, the potential for increased levels of service when/where needed.

Address PEOPLE ISSUES first...the technology will follow...positive economic and social 'results' will be possible...nuff said.

FACES OF INFOSTRUCTURE...it's not about the 'stuff'...Rural Broadband is about THE PEOPLE...it's about facilitating 'real-time' benefits through ICT.

Little Mian'aq in College

TALPA ANSEP in Kotzebue

Multimedia in Kwigillingok

Networking in Bethel

Applications in Aniak

Some of the 'show-case' technology related developments eminating from the Y-K Delta region.










Infostructure related links

Read Blog 'message to RCA Commissioners'. Infostructure linked to broadband initiative!

Common Ground for Alaska, Jamaica, and Rural Idaho-What can we show and do to motivate our people to embrace the potential of the Internet?

State-wide program for training IT personnel. KuC campus has trained over 300 people in Y-K Delta villages through a cooperative effort with Bethel Native Corportation and the State of Alaska.