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An ancient tribe gets connected into the digital age

28 Aug, 2007

The building pictured to the right is called a hogan. It's the traditional Navajo dwelling, almost identical to ones used by Native Americans for thousands of years. Except now, thanks to a novel effort in New Mexico, hogans like this one will be plugged into the digital age with high speed internet access.

Internet to the Hogans (ITTH) was born in 2005 from an effort led by former State Senator and current Navajo Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie. ITTH brings together Navajo tribe representatives, technology firms, and universities to improve the lives of tribe members.

"It’s a movement to close the digital divide in Native American communities," said Colleen Keane of the UNM Institute for American Indian Education.

The "Hogan Heroes," as Keane calls them, bring together complimentary resources to form a holistic information technology plan – from communications infrastructure to the services it will deliver – linked with the broader Navajo Nation IT plan spanning Arizona and Utah as well as New Mexico.

The two ingredients necessary for this movement to work are high speed infrastructure and content. Since it's impossible to run wires to hogans made of logs and mud, ITTH is working to build hubs connected to LambdaRail, a high-speed network linking universities and research institutes. The hubs would then send wireless signals onto Navajo reservations which could be picked up in hogans.

Content-wise, ITTH is aiming to bring telemedicine and distance learning to the Navajo. These services would help them receive essential medical care and improve their job prospects and economic status.

ITTH is also working on implementing internet television service for the Navajo, which would make it possible to deliver programming in both Navajo and English languages.

'Hogan Heroes' Bridge Native American Digital Divide

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