First Nation e-Centres deliver essential community services
Story published in the Feb 7, 2002 Wawatay News
By : Keewaytinook Okimakanak Staff Contribution

Since the beginning of last summer, E-Centres have been sprouting up across the Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) First Nations. People increasingly overhear others say "I'll see you at the E-Centre" or "We can do that at the E-Centre".

As Darlene Rae, North Spirit Lake's E-Centre Manager, tells it, "We have five computers for community / public access. Right now, people are mainly using the internet for things that they need to do - personal interest."

North Spirit's E-Centre has been open to the public since the fall, and is located in the old Health Canada overnight cabin, sharing one-half of the building with the Keewaytinook Internet High School. Rae says, "We need more space already. People keep stopping me to ask when the Centre is open (off hours). We open in the evenings as we can - when we have volunteers to be in charge."

North Spirit's E-Centre boasts the community access site, a video-conferencing suite, a staff office and a fledgling library begun with book donations from the school. Working with Rae are Charlisa Fiddler (Computer Technician), Arnold Thompson (Multi-Media Producer) and Dale Jack (ICT Support). As a team all four staff work with the community to help people make use of the available technologies and also work to keep the entire network running throughout the community and in the different buildings.

As in the other four KO Smart communities, the E-Centre is the community data network hub providing direct access services to all the services available on the Kuh-ke-nah high speed data network (K-Net). All communities (with the exception of Poplar Hill) have renovated existing building space for use as the local E-Centre. Poplar Hill included their E-Centre in their new Business Centre facility (which also has a four-room hotel, the local post office and the new Northern Store). Fort Severn's e-Centre is located in the renovated radio station but public access sites (each space specializing in certain applications and serving different groups) are located in several buildings, including their new Youth Centre.

Rae reports that, "all homes and community buildings in North Spirit were connected to high speed data service by the new cable system during November. There is more interest now in the cable modems and getting on-line." Four homes have already purchased their cable modems, and more will be installed as people acquire home computers.

A full range of network and support services are being supported from these centres. Individuals, organizations, local committees, and businesses are invited to participate in technology application sessions to learn how these new communication tools work.

E-Centres are the distribution point for network access in each Smart First Nation from where the local organizations, programs and the homes receive their connection to the high speed data network. Local network technicians maintain the network hardware, provide technical training, assist local clients with computer needs, office LANS, and help local consumers and organizations install cable modems and network cards in their computers.

Managers are organizing training (introductory, multi-media, technical) and deliver hands-on introductory sessions from the Centres. Introductory workshops focus on use of internet technologies - basic applications like e-mail - and computer applications. Public sessions will be augmented by focussed technology transfer workshops with community partners - teachers, health professionals, police, and Band employees.

"Our e-Centre staff are now able to support the development of local business and employment opportunities, provide training and together with our community members, elders and leaders help to determine how these communication technologies will be used in North Spirit," concluded Darlene Rae.


Possible pictures for this story are:

The public access room at the North Spirit Lake e-Centre is a busy place

Poplar Hill's New Business Centre opened in October 2001

Hosting a community planning meeting in the Poplar Hill e-Centre