Bridging the Technology Gap: A Case Study from Rural/Bush Alaska
Using preliminary results from a 3-year (2003-2006) National Science Foundation Partnership for Innovation project now under way in Native Alaska (USA), we will address in this paper if and how information technologies can be incorporated into indigenous, geographically-isolated environments in order to bring positive social and economic benefit to those who are often the “victims,” rather than the beneficiaries, of economic globalization. We will show too that information technologies such as e-commerce may be used not to supplant traditional social and economic structures, but rather, to enhance and strengthen them.
By bringing badly needed cash income into Alaskan Native bush communities, it is the contention here that information technologies can help sustain and perpetuate subsistence activities that now require substantial cash inputs. Indeed, the Alaskan Native telecommuters participating in this project, all of whom reside in small villages hundreds of miles from the nearest highway or city, are now caribou and moose hunters by day – and webmasters and product marketers by night.
Neither agrarianism nor the Industrial Revolution suited the mobile lifestyle of many indigenous peoples around the world. The Information Revolution, it will be argued, provides an ideal opportunity for formerly nomadic and other indigenous peoples like the Alaskan Natives in this study to participate effectively in the global economy, and to thereby become empowered participants, rather than victims, of the new flows that now comprise the restructuring of 21st century global capitalism.
Keywords: E-commerce, Alaska Natives, Rural/bush community development
Dr. Steven C. Dinero
Associate Professor, Human Geography, School of Liberal Arts, Philadelphia University
He wrote his dissertation on the social and economic consequences of the resettlement of the Negev bedouin community in Israel, and has since published extensively on such topics as women, education and tourism in the bedouin sector.
Since the late 1990s, Dr. Dinero has also conducted extensive socioeconomic research among the Nets’aii Gwich’in Indians of northeast Alaska. In addition, he presently coordinates the Bishop Rowe Chapel Restoration and Historic Preservation project in Arctic Village, and is serving as the Principal Investigator of a 3-year (2004-2006) information technology and e-commerce initiative, “Bridging the Technology Gap: A Culture-Based Model for Economic Development in Rural Alaska,” which is funded by the National Science Foundation.