Opportunities and Challenges for First-mile Development in Rural Hawaiian Communities

Jenifer Sunrise Winter, Wayne Buente, Patricia Amaral Buskirk


The islands of Hawaiʻi are the most geographically remote locations on earth and connect to the global Internet via expensive submarine fiber. While citizens in densely populated areas such as Honolulu have several options for broadband coverage, there are gaps throughout the state. Many of those living in rural areas, including indigenous Hawaiian communities, suffer from a lack of critical infrastructures. For indigenous Hawaiians trying to gain equal access to educational and economic opportunities, health care, and linguistic and cultural preservation, this disparity is particularly troubling. We describe challenges faced by Native Hawaiian communities in developing affordable, high-quality broadband access and describe initiatives, to date, that seek to address them. We suspect that the conventional planning approach to broadband development is incongruent to the unique economic, social and cultural contexts present in Hawaiian rural communities. Our investigation explores the potential for community-initiated broadband projects that will enable indigenous Hawaiians more self-determination in the planning and management of broadband networks and services.

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The Journal of Community Informatics. ISSN: 1712-4441