Author Archives: Kevin Andrews

Module 2 – Post 5 – Canadian app developer hopes new phone app will help preserve Indigenous culture by Kevin Andrews

Adrian Duke, who is originally from the Muscowpetung First Nation in southeast Saskatchewan, launched an app earlier this year. Named for a traditional form of housing called a “wikiup”, it allows the public to submit stories about certain places using functions similar to Google Maps and Wikipedia. This type of advancing technology has provided new ways to preserve Indigenous history.

For the most part, Aboriginal culture is a largely oral culture and so, as elders are getting older and passing on, this app will allow communities to preserve their languages that they might otherwise have lost. In addition, it also seems like it could be an opportunity to engage youth and get them connected with their elders, to learn these stories to help pass them on and preserve all of the traditions. The app allows users to find information, audio clips, videos and pictures about a certain location by selecting it from a map, similar to a Google map. They can also use an augmented-reality tool, with functions similar to Pokemon Go, to explore the world through the app.

Wikiupedia is still in the testing or “beta” phase, during which Duke hopes to collect 600 stories. The current version of the app includes historical information about the site of the Skwachàys Aboriginal Hotel & Gallery in Vancouver, where Duke is now based. The project is currently taking registrations for “story catchers” and “cultural guides”, who will submit stories and fact-check information from the public.

Module 2 – Post 4 – High Speed Internet limitations Increase The Digital Divide for Aboriginals Communities In Canada by Kevin Andrews

When it comes to Aboriginals in Canada, there is a significant percentage who do not have sufficient broadband connections. According to Statistics Canada, three-quarters of Aboriginal Internet users live in urban centers, where broadband infrastructure is widespread and relatively accessible. However, about half of the Aboriginal population continues to reside in rural and remote communities, where this infrastructure is generally non-existent.

In rural and remote Aboriginal communities, the cost of broadband access is often prohibitive, as corporate service providers are less likely to develop networks in expensive-to-service areas. Rural and remote Aboriginal communities tend to pay more for services, yet have less access to broadband. For Bell DSL Internet service in the city of Montreal, a $30 per month plan includes 5Mbps download speed and 15GB of usage. NorthwestTel, a subsidiary of Bell, is one of the few providers of DSL internet service in Nunavut. The same download speed of 5Mbps from NorthwestTel comes with 30GB of usage, for $180 a month. Broadband pricing mechanisms are among the main reasons for the continuing digital divide between urban and rural communities.

Of the Aboriginal communities that do have access to the Internet, many only have unreliable dial-up service. Researcher Adam Fiser, consulting for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, reported that in 2007 nearly two-thirds of Canada’s urban communities, and almost half of its remote communities, had access to some form of broadband service. In comparison, only 17% of First Nations communities had broadband access. Given its maximum speed of 56 Kb/s and its unstable connection through phone lines, dial-up Internet severely limits the ability of users to visit web pages, send emails and download information. As a result of these limitations, the digital divide for Aboriginals continues to grow.

This divide exists not only in terms of Internet access but also in terms of digital literacy. Limited access to broadband networks in isolated areas has inhibited the ability of Aboriginals to develop the basic skills necessary to engage with the Internet. According to Statistics Canada survey, 34% of urban aboriginal Internet users described their computer skills as “excellent”, compared with only 21% of rural users. The study concluded that a gap exists among Aboriginal Internet users themselves that separated more experienced urban users from their rural counterparts. Digital literacy increasingly represents the basic cost of entry for an education, a job, or access to the government. In the absence of such skills, rural and remote Aboriginals will continue to be at a disadvantage.

Module 2 – Post 3 – Technology Helping Create Original Aboriginal Art by Kevin Andrews

Under the mentorship of Ken McNeil and utilizing the latest design and fabrication technology, UBC is working with local First Nations to carve out wood/cedar ‘story panels’.  Using modern scanning and CNC router technology, unique limited edition prints and panels are produced to promote the cultural connection between the artist and the cedar. For many of these artists, the panel design and the technology used allows for a greater means of expression producing a ‘self-portrait’ of the designer. Aboriginal art is an estimated $2-billion market worldwide, but only for a few select, high-end artists, with galleries making the majority of the money through the hops is the training and application of computer-assisted machining technologies will lead to added wealth for the artists and First Nations communities. The panels, which are functional works of art, take hours to complete and are one-of-a-kind.

For many of these artists, the panel design and the technology used allows for a greater means of expression producing a ‘self-portrait’ of the designer. Aboriginal art is an estimated $2-billion market worldwide, but only for a few select, high-end artists, with galleries making the majority of the money, though the hope is the training and application of computer-assisted machining technologies will lead to added wealth for the artists and First Nations communities. The panels, which are functional works of art, take hours to complete and are one-of-a-kind.


Module 2 – Post 2 – How Technology & Education Can Help Preserve Aboriginal Languages by Kevin Andrews

For many people who speak indigenous languages across the globe, this is not simply a “what if” question.  According to National Geographic, one language goes extinct every 14 days, and nearly half of the roughly 7,000 languages currently spoken will disappear in the coming decades. This is a particularly challenging problem in the case of languages which have only an oral tradition, no books or even an alphabet. The issue of language extinction in Canada is one that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission examined as part of its mandate. The report released in late 2015 includes a number of call-to-action recommendations related to preserving indigenous languages including that the federal government provides sufficient funds for aboriginal language revitalization and preservation and that the work should reflect the full range of aboriginal languages and be managed by Aboriginal people and communities.

Fortunately, the process of preserving several Canadian aboriginal languages is already underway. One such venture is taking place in the Ojibwe communities of the Rainy River district in northwestern Ontario. It’s a collaboration between the Seven Generations Education Institute, a 30-year-old educational entity governed by the 10 First Nations in the Fort Frances and Kenora area, and Say It First,  a company that uses “technology and community participation to modernize, expand, revitalize and localize aboriginal languages in Canada, and to help our First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities produce more language speakers tomorrow, that exist today.” Mike Parkhill, founder of Say It First and Brent Tookenay have collaborated to create a series of children’s books where the cover image can be captured by an iPhone to trigger a link to a spoken version of the story:

It’s this link between new technology and ancestral knowledge that Parkhill and Tookenay believe is key to the success of this program and another way technology is getting used to bridge the gap to help preserve Aboriginal culture.


Module 2 – Post 1 – First Nations Technology Council Are Fighting to Preserve Their Culture by Kevin Andrews

Decades of oppression and forced assimilation have led to the steep decline of Indigenous languages but there is new hope as tech-savvy young people are fighting to preserve their culture. For generations, Indigenous families used storytelling as their primary way to pass down knowledge and language as elders would speak to the children in their language and the kids would naturally pick it up but that began to change in the late 19th century once the Canadian government passed the Indian Act. This law enforced colonial authority over First Nations peoples, partially to force assimilation through policies that displaced Indigenous people and removed them from their communities. Most notoriously implemented through church-run residential schools that aimed to erase Indigenous children’s cultures and connections to family, these institutions enforced a language ban. If Indigenous children were caught speaking their own language, they would face corporal punishment.

Forced assimilation largely contributed to Canada’s Indigenous language loss by barring people from continuing to pass down the language.

Denise Williams, First Nations Technology Council executive director, is aware that Indigenous memories of colonialism are inhibitors to the First Nations embracing modern technology. She is taking steps to change this.  As part of a 1982 Canadian constitution amendment that allowed the integration of Indigenous people’s right to self-government, it also allowed for the adoption of contemporary software and information systems. These tools imposed on communities, added on top of an already imposed government structure, became a sore point for many First Nations people and therefore, is now the mandate of Denise and her technology council members to change this.

Even though the First Nations Technology Council faces resistance from some community members who view tech as a symbol of colonial oppression Denise and the council has spent four years visiting over one hundred Indigenous communities in B.C. carrying out mobile technological training programs to overcome this deep-seated resistance, her team providing everything from Microsoft Office certification to PC repair training. The enthusiastic feedback she received made her view tech as a key tool for Indigenous empowerment.

Technology councils Instagram feed

On the council’s website, she notes that they have seen the profound effects of increased access to digital communication through movements like Idle No More and Stand With Standing Rock, which both achieved mass impact and galvanized activism. The council’s next mandate is to empower more Indigenous people to build communities and drive economic development online. Because of the work of this council, the future for technology has potential as Indigenous people gain the skills to partake in digital conversations while increasing reconciliation making a better world for all Canadians and Indigenous people.

Module 1 – Post 6 – Aboriginal Languages Are Disappearing by Kevin Andrews


This article deals with the slow death of many traditional Canadian First Nation languages.  Canada once houses over 70 distinct languages, but according to the latest census only 60 still exist and of those, only 3 remain strong.  

The Mohawk language is another one which is barely hanging on, but a program has taken steps to re-teach to young students to speak it.  Residential schools played a large part in the destruction of language.  It is well documented that students who spoke their native tongue were beaten or worse.  Unfortunately, knowledge of culture is passed through generations through language.  If the language dies, the culture and knowledge will follow.  It is a lose-lose situation for communities when a language dies.

Based on my research, the bleakest area is British Columbia, where over half of the First Nation languages call home.  Only 1 in 20 First Nation persons is fluent in their language and most of those are elders.  Young people are not picking up the language as much as is needed for survival.  There is a push to rectify that situation.  More can speak the Native tongue in comparison to 2006, but the language is still in danger.

Racist beliefs (many left over from Residential School ideology) have led some First Nations to believe they are somehow ‘more’ Canadian if they don’t speak their Native tongue.  In addition, a lack of opportunity hurts the language.  Some believe outside of teaching, what is the point of getting a second, albeit, their first language.   Moreover, only NWT recognizes some Aboriginal languages as official languages.

This article was an eye-opener to further demonstrate how the use of technology can help with the re-emergence of cultural ideas and language in First Nation communities.  If I were to use it in a final project, I would juxtapose it against how technology could help preserve Aboriginal languages in culture.

Module 1 – Post 5 – Social Media and Indigenous Peoples by Kevin Andrews

Based on my initial research it looks like Indigenous people use social media at a rate higher than non-Indigenous people, and this is the case right across the country. My research on social media, reveals that for most Indigenous people, social media is an everyday activity. For some, social media provides a way to learn and express their Indigenous identity in a safe space.

During my initial research, I’ve found some uniquely Indigenous activities on social media and while many non-Indigenous youths are dropping social media platforms like Facebook because their parents have profiles, Indigenous youth are actively engaging with older generations and maintaining intergenerational connections. In addition, my initial research is showing that older Indigenous are now reporting that social media provided them with cultural and family connectivity that they did not have before.

Social media has in many ways bridged distances and is, as the founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation, John Barlow, suggests, a “world that is both everywhere and nowhere”. In this way, Indigenous populations worldwide are interacting online and supporting Indigenous issues and causes in a global collective. Given the similarities of experiences with colonization, Indigenous peoples can relate to, engage with and support each other on social media. However, research also confirms that the public can be traumatized by indirect exposure to certain events through social media.

For anyone interested in learning more about Indigenous people and trauma on social media, I have found two interesting articles. The first is a chapter in IndigenousX anthology titled, “#Overwhelmed: Juggling the stress and positive potential of social media IRL”, and the second, titled “Trauma, Shared Recognition and Indigenous Resistance on Social media” issue of the Australasian Journal of Information Systems. Food for thought!

Module 1 – Post 4 – The Impact of Technology on Indigenous Peoples by Kevin Andrews

Because of technology, we now have a new understanding of culture and communication. Indigenous peoples across the world have been affected by the introduction of technologies from foreign cultures for hundreds of years. Some have not dramatically changed their ways of life, while others have completely changed self-identities, entire societies, and worldviews.

Modern technologies, especially telecommunication and computer technologies, allow indigenous groups to participate in the larger societies and economies around them. These technologies also enable them to preserve and promote their way of life for their descendants and for our collective knowledge of human history.

Some resources I’ve been able to find so far that give a general overview of the effect of technology on indigenous cultures include the following:

  • Casey, James. “Native networking: Telecommunications and Information Technology in Indian Country.” Benton Foundation Online. Homepage online. Available from; Internet; Accessed 22 Sept 2017.


  • Warschauer, Mark. “Technology and Indigenous Language Revitalization: Analyzing the Experience of Hawaii”. Homepage online. Available from; Internet; Accessed 21 Sept 2017.


In addition, there are many different examples of beneficial uses of new technology. Several Web sites demonstrate the potential benefits that can be gained by using video conferencing technology, digitization of documents, and radio broadcast over the Internet include the following:

  • U.S. Department of Commerce. “Native American Herbal Tea Company Finds Customers Using Latest Video Technology.” Access America Exporting 11. [e-journal]; Internet; Accessed 21 Sept 2017.


  • The National Indian Law Library. “Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project.” Home page online. Available from; Internet; Accessed 21 Sept 2017.


  • Native American Public Telecommunications. “Native American Public Telecommunications.” Home page online. Available from; Internet; Accessed 21 Sept 2017.

Module 1 – Post 3 – One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in Peru by Kevin Andrews

Few would argue against the notion that the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC, originally referred to by many as the ‘$100 laptop project’) has been the most high-profile educational technology initiative for developing countries and Indigenous cultures over the past half-decade or so. It has garnered more media attention, and incited more passions (pro and con), than any other program of its kind. What was ‘new’ when OLPC was announced back in 2005 has become part of mainstream discussions in many places today (although it is perhaps interesting to note that, to some extent, the media attention around the Khan Academy is crowding into the space in the popular consciousness that OLPC used to occupy), and debates around its model have animated policymakers, educators, academics, and the general public in way that perhaps no other educational technology initiative has ever done.

The largest OLPC program to date, however, has not been in Uruguay, but rather in Peru, and many OLPC supporters have argued that the true test of the OLPC approach is perhaps best studied there, given its greater fealty to the underlying pedagogical philosophies at the heart of OLPC and its focus on rural, less advantaged communities. Close to a million laptops are meant to have been distributed there to students to date (902,000 is the commonly reported figure, although I am not sure if this includes the tens of thousands of laptops that were destroyed in the fire at a Ministry of Education warehouse).

What do we know about the impact of this ambitious program?The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) released a long-awaited working paper detailing findings from its evaluation of the OLPC program in Peru. While OLPC has been the subject of much research interest (some of decent quality, some decidedly less so; the OLPC wiki maintains a very useful list of this research), Technology and Child Development: Evidence from One Laptop per Child Program in Peru is meant to be the first large-scale evaluation of the program’s impact using randomized control trials (considered by many in the evaluation community as the ‘gold standard’ for this sort of thing).

With reference to all the problems related to the Peruvian OLP project I feel it was two folded. On one hand, there was no previous training for teachers to develop methodological capacities to exploit the potential of those computers. Teachers basically taught the children how to operate the device, and that was it. On the other hand, it was one of many other big projects that had the aim to create noise in favor of President Garcia.


Module 1 – Post 2 – The One Laptop Per Child Program (OLPC) by Kevin Andrews

As part of my interest and research focus on the influence of technology on Indigenous culture and the issues that surround it and online sources that criticize the program from an Indigenous culture standpoint, I thought I would take this post to provide further information on OLPC. Founded in 2010, OLPC Canada (One Laptop Per Child Program) is a non-profit organization that works with corporate sponsors, service groups, individuals donors and Indigenous leadership to enhance education for Indigenous students by providing access to technology that is rich in educational and cultural content.

The official OLPC website can be found here: and you can find the founder of the program, Nicholas Negroponte talk about the program when it first began back in 2006 here on Ted Talks OLPC

Additionally, there are a few Youtube links that describe the OLPC initiative, they can be found here:

Youtube OLPC Video 1


Youtube OLPC Video 2

As the videos describe, the idea behind the OLPC program is both ambitious and noble: to educate the world. But, can such a program be successful? Is the program just another way that Western ideals are being imposed on Indigenous cultures? Throughout the course of this semester, I hope to answer these questions.