This paper is the first version of the one I previously posted this week, Challenges Faced in Overcoming Indigenous Digital Divide in Brazil. It is as presented at IAMCR Conference 2013: Crises, “Creative Destruction” and the Global Power and Communication Orders, Dublin, Ireland, 25-29 June 2013.
On the conference program you’ll find it under the name “La fracture numérique ethnique : l’accès internet parmi les groupes indigènes au Brésil” because I was first going to present it in French and then I changed my mind when I noticed almost everyone was going to be presenting in English.
Back in Brazil from IAMCR Conference, Spanish magazine Commons editor got in touch with me through LinkedIn. After the submission and revision process the article had a deeper perspective on the subject, relying on Spanish and other European digital divide authors I didn’t know before. That’s why I decided to publish it in Commons magazine with an entirely new name.
This paper’s objective is to identify the level of digital inclusion made possible by brazilian digital divide program Electronic Government – Citizen Attention Service (Governo Eletrônico – Serviço de Atendimento ao Cidadão – Gesac) on indigenous lands. We are guided by Brazilian sociologist Bernardo Sorj’s five level digital inclusion system: 1) the existence of physical transmission infrastructure, 2) the availability of equipment/connection, 3) training in the use of computing tools and the internet, 4) the intellectual ability and social integration, and 5) the production and use of specific content.
Our hypothesis is that the programs do not consider the follow through of internet access points after their implementation, as they do not provide for updates and repair or replacement of damaged or outdated equipment. Thus, the access points are easily and often subject to technical problems that result in underuse or even obsolescence. To test this hypothesis, we performed the observation of the internet access point in the indigenous school Pamáali, of baniwa and coripaco ethnicities, located in the northwestern area of the Brazilian Amazon. We also discussed and conducted interviews with actors involved in the implementation of digital inclusion programs aimed at indigenous peoples: ministries and Indian National Foundation (FUNAI) officials, representatives of the third sector and indigenous themselves.
Our main argument is that as long as Brazilian government’s digital inclusion actions aimed at indigenous peoples are not created and implemented as part of a broader indigenous policy and do not take into consideration the specificities of these groups, these iniciatives will be limited to providing internet connection and donating equipment that shall either remain underused or will rapidly deteriorate.
Keywords: Indigenous Digital Divide. Digital Divide. Gesac. Indigenous Movements. NICT.