Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Thu, Aug. 13

DNA receives technology grant

WINDOW ROCK—DNA-People’s Legal Services has been awarded a Technology Initiatives Grant from the Legal Services Corporation to conduct a community legal education campaign through the use of technology. Using high-speed satellite connections, DNA will connect touch-screen kiosks to the Internet to deliver culturally appropriate community legal education and social service resource information to remote Navajo and Hopi communities. In partnership with the Southwest Navajo Nation Virtual Alliance, Four Directions Health Communications, Navajo Nation TV-5 and Northern Arizona University, DNA will create a multi-media website that will function as a virtual community resource center for isolated Native American communities. Community members will be able to connect to the website and access community legal education and resource information, in written and oral English, as well as oral Navajo and Hopi, from touch-screen kiosks located in the lobbies of DNA offices.

Through this project, DNA will model the potential for high-speed satellite connections to transport information to remote communities, as well as the possibilities for delivering community legal information to non-English speakers with the use of touch-screen technologies. The desired outcomes of this project will be increased knowledge within the community of their legal rights and obligations, as well as their awareness of the resources available to them to improve their living situations. In addition, it is hoped that rural Native Americans will become more comfortable using computer workstations and related technology.

Perhaps nowhere in America is the digital divide greater than on the Navajo and Hopi Nations. The primary obstacles that have prevented the Navajo and Hopi populations from accessing the information infrastructure have been lack of access due to depressed economic conditions and the remoteness of the reservations, and the fact that many Native Americans speak only their native languages.

Due to a lack of reliable services such as electricity and telephone, or the financial resources to purchase a computer, less than 1% of the Navajo reservation population have Internet access. Only five communities are served by local Internet Service Providers. Those DNA offices connected to the Internet are prohibited from doing much more than sending and receiving e-mail and conducting limited legal research. Phone connections to the Internet can also be prohibitively expensive because from most reservation towns, it is a toll call to call anywhere else.

There is more to the digital divide on the Navajo and Hopi Nations than just getting Internet access to isolated towns and villages. Once the access is there, how is the traditional Navajo or Hopi person to use the information that this access makes available? They cannot speak, read or write (type) in English. This is the final obstacle that must be overcome before the digital divide can be bridged in Native America. Touch screen kiosks that "speak" in native languages while displaying accompanying video, graphic and text images are an innovative way to make this final link to traditional native peoples.

The Navajo Nation Virtual Alliance has been awarded a Technology Opportunities Program grant to conduct a community networking program in five communities of the Southwest Navajo Nation. DNA will collaborate with the Virtual Alliance, linking their website to DNA kiosks, and sharing community legal education information for posting. In this way individuals will have access to the information generated by this project. Additionally, the Gates Foundation has agreed to place workstations in all 110 Navajo Nation Chapters, and Gilat has agreed to link these chapters to the Internet with high-speed connections. Thus, in the near future, all of the information on DNA’s website will be available, at least in English text, to every Navajo community.

The desired outcome of this project will be increased knowledge within communities of legal rights and obligations, as well as available social services. The users will be provided with powerful information on legal services, domestic violence prevention and shelter services, crime victims compensation benefits, consumer rights, available public benefits, low-cost loans, tax information and more.

For more information contact Chris O’Shea Heydinger, DNA Director of Information Technology, (505) 325-8886, chriso@dnalegalservices.org.

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