Indigenous Women in Scandinavia and a Potential Role for ICT

Indigenous Women in Scandinavia and a Potential Role for ICT

Avri Doria (Luleå University of Technology, Sweden) and Maria Uden (Luleå University of Technology, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch125
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Abstract

From a distance, the Sámi Network Connectivity initiative (SNC) does not necessarily appear as anything but another technical research project with certain science-fiction (sci-fi) connotations. It is aimed to create Internet connectivity for communications-challenged terrestrial settings using a protocol currently being developed for communications in space. However, while being a highly technical project, SNC emerged from an unexpected setting: an Indigenous women’s initiative to save their traditional livelihood from threats of social and economic drain and to create better opportunities for women and youth to remain within the traditional community. The first step towards the formation of SNC was taken in June 2001 when a group of women reindeer herders in Sirges Sámi Village in Jokkmokk, Norrbotten County in northern Sweden decided to start a gender equality project, Kvinna i sameby (KIS).1 To the Sámi, reindeer herding serves not only as an economic base but also as a foundation for reproduction of cultural values. Already in the KIS planning stage, Susanne Spik, the project leader, contacted the Division for Gender and Technology at Luleå University of Technology (LTU) to invite scientific assistance from the early stage of the project. LTU is the regional technical university for northern Sweden and is situated in the Norrbotten County capital of Luleå 200 km southeast of Jokkmokk. Promoting women’s possibilities to remain in reindeer herding and the traditional Sámi community, especially social and technical conditions for work and business development, were the focus in the discussions. An associated but separately funded project was subsequently formed by LTU researcher Maria Udén. A solution to the project requirements came from a guest researcher at the computer science department, Avri Doria, an Internet systems architect. In spring 2002, after initial discussions with members of the Interplanetary Networking Research Group (IPNRG) at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, she contributed the proposal that came to be referred to as Sámi Network Connectivity. With a decision to accept this project, the establishment of SNC as both a technical idea and a concrete gender-based project became a prime goal for the cooperation between the women in Sirges and the scholars at LTU, and continued after the KIS project ended in December 2003. The SNC objective is to provide connectivity where other sources are not available, while making the local population part of the development of the technical system. To develop the technical solution space of SNC, the Sámi Network Connectivity proposition gained research funding from the Swedish national agency for innovation systems, Vinnova, for the period 2004 to 2006. This funding is distributed through the Vinnova program “New communication networks.”

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