Exploring The Benefits and Challenges of Community-Powered Connectivity In The New Arctic


Arctic telecommunications has emerged as a key tool in responding to the unprecedented changes being experienced in the region, from environmental shifts to globalization. Unfortunately, small rural and Indigenous communities are seldom included in discussions of telecommunications, leaving them underserved and incapable of leveraging technology advances to ensure their own resilience. This project is developing a model that small Arctic communities can use to design and implement community technology infrastructure to support their unique needs. Findings advance understanding of how technology can be developed and used to support rural and Indigenous communities as they manage a changing Arctic environment; collaborate with environmental scientists; seek out education and sustainable economic opportunities; and preserve their culture. This research is empowering small Arctic communities and contribute to scientific understandings of how to design more equitable and accessible forms of technology.

Significant gaps remain in understanding how digital infrastructures and services can be best designed to support the unique needs of Arctic communities. In response to these gaps, this project asks: (1) How can telecommunications infrastructure be codesigned and architected for the rugged and isolated conditions and communities in the Arctic? (2) How can telecommunications infrastructure and digital services best support Arctic communities in responding to rapidly changing environmental and social conditions? (3) What are the social, cultural, and economic implications of increased connectivity for Arctic communities and peoples? The project answers these questions by studying the deployment of a community network in an Inuvialuit community. Researchers, in collaboration with the Internet Society and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, are holding a series of workshops that involve the community in the development of the network, evaluate the long-term operation of the network, and explore the socio-cultural and economic impacts of connectivity for the community. Major outcomes of these activities include the installation of the network in the community, measurement and evaluation of the network's performance, and increased social scientific understanding of how Arctic Indigenous communities adapt technology to their own needs.

Logistics Summary

This project identifies a substantial infrastructural gap contributing to the Digital Divide among indigenous, rural communities and dominant groups. Specifically, the researchers will focus on a community-generated telecommunication system to support indigenous communities. Over the course of 2 years researchers will conduct 3 workshops in the Canada Northwest Territories, specifically Ulukhaktok. In collaboration with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) and Co-PI Sevilla, selected Ulukhaktok for the deployment of a community-based telecommunications network, which would dramatically increase access to Internet for community residents. This project is underway and expected to launch in late 2020.

Season Field Sites:

2020 Canada - Ulukhatok

Principal Investigators

Co-Principal Investigators

Project PI(s)
Funded Institutions
University of Washington
Other Research Location(s)
Ulukhaktok, Canada
Project Start Date
Sep 2020
Award Year
Funding Track