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An Info-Tech Wellness Strategy
for Healthy Alaskan Native and Native American Communities



The role of information technologies supporting Healthy Native and Rural Villages requires an integrated approach based on full understanding of how the info-tech learning process can impact individual and community health, both positively and negatively.


In the past, implementation of telemedicine has required minimal training on the part of citizens when high speed internet access was available only at the clinic. Such systems required only one or more persons at the clinic to learn their operation in order for the whole community to benefit. But, today we’re seeing rapid growth of home-based Internet access which raises major questions and opportunities.


The core questions are;

 “What’s the best a community can learn to do for itself applying information technologies to community wellness?”


And who is ultimately responsible for creating community learning systems and providing appropriate training?


Do outsiders create healthy villages, or must local citizens be actively involved?


What is the role of citizen participation in community tech-learning processes, also called "community networking" and/or "peer-to-peer social networking?" In a world of accelerating change, lifelong learning and peer mentoring are proving to be increasingly important components of community wellness. 


Native village Internet without informed leadership can create negative "information diets" such as emphasis on pornography and/or idle entertainment instead of nourishing new knowledge. Just as wholistic medicine focuses on balance between mind, body, and soul, so must healthy villages balance community wellness with emphasis on health, and an educational approach which encompasses growth of self-esteem, and cultural self-identity along with learning new knowledge-access tools and collaborative skills.


Consider the community information flow for the following nine wellness components as essential to a healthy village;
1. Safety 2. Health 3. Education 4. Enterpreneurship 5.Ecommerce 6. Social Services 7. Culture 8.Government 9. Entertainment


Community Wellness Begins with K12 Educational Reform

Improving K12 educational achievement for at-risk Alaskan Native youth in currently failing schools requires a new constructivist approach fully utilizing computer and Internet learning tools. Students must be given the responsibility for their own learning through an Individualized Learning Plan Web-Based model with personal attention from both educators and community role models. Community buy-in and widespread multigenerational participation must be integral to the educational process along with web-based cultural expression and digital storytelling.


New web-based tools offer establishing a global voice, multimedia cultural expression, and the opportunity to establish social networks between communities through peer-to-peer sharing in conjunction with accessing unlimited educational (e-learning) opportunities.


To grow an entrepreneurial knowledge-based culture it will be necessary to integrate youth entrepreneurship and self-directed Internet learning skills, beginning in the primary grades. Educational and technology required achievement standards can not only be met, but significantly exceeded. Through online learning and mentorship, students will be able to stay current with their work when gone from the school.


“Planting seeds of entrepreneurship must begin early enough in a child’s primary education to establish entrepreneurship as a lifelong choice.” 


 Entrepreneurship education in a knowledge economy can be integrated with the required standards and can include basis business concepts, workforce soft skills, entry-level ecommerce, and how to develop and market employability skills, particularly for village-based telework opportunities.  A one-stop community wellness information and training center is a model to consider based on providing public broadband access.


Recent advances with satellite technologies in remote Alaskan Native villages make it possible for virtually unlimited instructional and cultural video content to be affordably accessible wirelessly to the home through local high volume cache servers. Access to select instructional video libraries from the home can be argued as being the most culturally acceptable medium for introducing new ideas and learning into Native home environments.

Emerging New Rural Solutions
Fletcher Brown, communications director for DRS Technical Services, has installed 60+ rural health and educational satellite systems in Alaskan Native villages using state-of-the-art new technologies developed in partnership with the department of defense. (Email: Fletcher Brown <fbrown@drs-tsi.com> )


As a benchmark model to begin understanding cost effective options, the DRS Village-wide satellite and wireless network models offer interactive state-of-the-art distance learning features and include voice-over-Internet, two-way video, and advanced content management features. 

Virtually unlimited volume of instructional training videos for health care professionals, educators, and citizens can be stored locally and updated nightly. Such programming can then be distributed locally at very low cost at 100 meg speeds via open source community wireless mesh systems.  Locally generated cultural video content can also be efficiently distributed nightly, for example, among all 250 Alaskan Native villages, and/or any Native communities in North America.


All that is needed to receive Internet TV to the home via DRS village systems is a DRS set top box, and a high speed wireless connection to the local server which stores over 1000 hours of programming updated nightly via the village’s DRS satellite dish.


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