I’m in Iqaluit in Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut. My expectations of internet connectivity need to be revised. The territory, which covers 1/5 of Canada’s land mass, is home to 30,000 people, dispersed across 29 communities. Many of the communities have populations of 100-300 people. These small communities make it very difficult to provide education to Inuit (some classrooms run K-12 groups). As with much of society, education is the pathway toward healthier society, opportunities for youth, and personal achievement. Connectivity is a big problem here. Traditional telephone companies shy away from large, dispersed communities…it’s too difficult to ‘make money’ or recoup investments.
As is often the case, the lack of service from external providers resulted in a local “community champions” putting together a solution on sheer effort and perseverance. Enter Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation. Through an RFP process, they selected a northern service provider (SSI Micro)…and created the Quniq network – “The Qiniq network is an advanced satellite and wireless network, delivering Broadband Internet services to all communities in Nunavut, Canada.”
Within the first year, they received over 3000 subscribers…by offering a low-cost broadband service…enabling educators, learners, and family members to connect. It creates a hopeful atmosphere of business, education, politics, and arts. Of key concern, is the preservation of culture and language (when an isolated community enters the global virtual space, the voice of 30,000 people can quickly be overwhelmed). I’m impressed with the thoughtful balance of technology, access, and culture. Local artisans are now selling items on eBay, resulting in an emerging economy for individuals.