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Indian Country: Falling into the Digital Divide?
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Indian Country: Falling into the Digital Divide?
As the world becomes increasingly driven by technology, access to basic every day items such as phone lines and computers will become more and more important. And thanks to the ever change face of the Internet, our world is becoming even smaller and smaller.

Next week, President Clinton pays a visit to the Navajo Nation during his "Bridging the Digital Divide" tour in order to emphasize the increasing gap between technology have and technology have nots. On what side of the digital divide Native Americans fall?

You might be surprised to hear the answer. While Native Americans typically lag behind Asian-Americans and white Americans, access and usage rates are actually higher for Native Americans than for other minorities. Given that basic phone service is an issue for some reservations, these rates are positive indicators of the future and help dispel stereotypes.

Its not surprising that technology and the Internet are not as foreign to Native Americans. University of New Mexico students like Rusell Pedro (Laguna Pueblo) and Gene Humeyestewa (Hopi) recall that their elders spoke of "roads" and "spider webs" in the sky, enabling communcation like no one ever imagined.

What do we do with technology? For each tribe and person, the answer is different. Some tribes need better phone access, others need better computers. One organization, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, now provides grants to tribes in New Mexico and the Southwest, enabling them to develop and implement technology goals designed for their own needs.

Individually, we each play a role in bridging the digital divide right now. By contributing to this website and others dedicated to Indian issues, we can insure that our voices will not be left behind in the information revolution. Even if Native people remain numerically smaller than the rest of the population at large, we are a significant demographic on the Internet--now and in the years to come.

Facts and Figures:
Where does Indian Country stand versus the rest of the US? Check out our Digital Divide Stats.

Elder Wisdom:
Students recall the sayings of their elders.

Sources of Funding:
Native American Access to Technology Program from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
A good compilation of funding sources for tribal governments is the Native Networking report by the Benton Foundation. You will need a Acrobat PDF reader.

Related Story:
Clinton to visit Navajo Nation (4/10)

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