The policy of Self-Determination that Kelly wrote about is definitely improving tribal relations with the federal government, and this week we have another example – the Internet.
Last August I commented on National Relief Charities’ Facebook page that 70% of the world still has a digital disconnect and that Dell was spending $8 million to support digital access for children around the world. I was hoping that some of that funding could find its way to the remote reservations, because there is a digital divide right here in this country. NPR reports that 63% of Americans have Internet access, compared to fewer than 10% of American Indians.
Well, there’s good news. The Arizona Republic ran a story on Sunday (March 7, 2011) stating that federal stimulus funding will bring high-speed Internet access to 5 Indian reservations in the state of Arizona. Woo hoo! The reservations include San Carlos Apache, Tohono O’odham, Havasupai (in the base of the Grand Canyon), Hopi, and Navajo.
This is a major milestone. Arizona is home to some of the most rural and remote, untraveled, and poverty-stricken regions in this country. Mostly, these regions are reservation land. Many of the reservation schools lack the computers and basic Internet access that many students in America now take for granted. This new federal funding will enable Web access for about 5,000 homes on 5 reservations. It will provide better access to education, business opportunities, and connections with the outside world for American Indians in Arizona who are currently isolated from all of the above. This video explains more about how digital access supports empowerment and self-sufficiency.