A Community Informatics Model for e-Services in First Nations Communities: The K-Net Approach to Water Treatment in Northern Ontario

Michael Gurstein, Brian Beaton, Kevin Sherlock

Abstract


 First Nations Chiefs-in-Assembly in July, 2008 unanimously passed Resolution 19/2008, “e-Community for First Nations: A National Framework”. An important component of this national framework is the support for a First Nations broadband network development strategy that addresses the needs of First Nations across Canada.   Among the intentions of the Resolution would be to ensure the development of a Broadband electronic platform to enable the efficient and effective provision of the range of educational, health and other services to and in First Nations communities.   Service provision in Aboriginal communities particularly those in rural and remote locations have suffered from a range of difficulties including exceptional cost, inefficiencies in the delivery system, high turn-over in service staff, and quality control, among others.  The consequence of this has in many cases been overly costly, inadequate or inappropriate services penalizing residents because of their choice of their location.   Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and particularly broadband Internet communications has the capability to overcome the challenges of remoteness and in this way to ensure an equitability of service access, service quality and effectiveness and efficiency as well as providing opportunities for communities to more directly benefit from the resources being provided for service provision.   Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) and its Kuhkenah Network (K-Net) program in Northern Ontario has been a global leader in the development of approaches to electronically enabled community based service delivery for remote and rural areas including in Health care, Education and governance.  Most recently KO has developed and is implementing a highly innovative approach to the community delivery of Water Treatment service including the use of two way video-conferencing for mentoring and continuing education, support and ultimately remote monitoring and electronic servicing. These developments are components of the KO Water and Wastewater Plant Operator Training initiative and the new Safe Water Operations Program with the ongoing operational support from INAC for these innovative and locally managed initiatives.   This paper will examine the KO approach to community based ICT enabled service delivery, develop an outcome/evidence based model of this approach in light of on-going Community Informatics research and theory and KO’s experience with other areas of ICT enabled community based service provision; assess, examine and situate the Water Treatment program within the context of this model and provide a more general articulation of this model for possible utilization within the overall context of the use of a broadband platform for the service deployment envisaged by the above mentioned resolution.   It is the intention of this paper to begin a more general discussion on overall policy with respect to service delivery in First Nations communities and how the new opportunities presented by ICT can transform this towards more efficient and effective services in communities and overall towards community empowerment.    

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The Journal of Community Informatics. ISSN: 1712-4441