New tech connects Navajo Nation

It’s all about connectivity.

Connecting citizens with new technologies provides opportunitiesthat impact every aspect of the community, according to CarolynPurcell, director, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group.

Purcell addressed press and industry experts in New Mexico onApril 17th, during the Cisco Connected Communities media tour.

Over a Cisco network the Navajo Nation in the southwesternUnited States will be delivering Internet connectivity, voicecommunications, telemedicine and distance learning, with one of themajor goals being to connect the Nation’s 110 Chapter Houses.

“What this provides is an opportunity to actually improve publicsafety, create a world-class learning environment, and stimulateand maintain economic development,” said Purcell.

Navajo Nation, which includes parts of New Mexico, Arizona, andUtah, covers 27, 000 square miles with a total population of250,000.

Leonard Tsosie, New Mexico State Senator and one of six NativeAmerican legislators, said having the Navajo Nation connected iscrucial to their sustainability.

“Navajo people are nomadic, and have placed themselves out therebecause there’s where they want to live,” said Tsosie. “Unlike theservices providers, we accept them for who they are.”

He said it’s important the technology be conformed to theirliving style, not the other way around.

“A lot of these areas (within the Nation) are considered sacredareas, and enlightening the corporations that don’t give a hootabout that is important,” he said. “We’re not a corporation, andwe’ve told them we’re not going to build on sacred land.”

However, Tsosie said the corporations and service providers are”coming around” to that way of thinking.

“It’s in our interest to work together with them andgovernmental agencies,” he said.

The project is something that will allow the community to besustained, as young adults are now moving back to the area becausethis technology provides them a more modern lifestyle with accessto distance education, which means employment prospects theypreviously didn’t have.

Tsosie did not give a specific amount in terms of costs, butsaid a project like this will be “millions of dollars,” and theState has provided some funding to keep the project movingforward.

Harold Skow, director of information technology, Navajo Nation,said his main role is to ensure a holistic technology vision forthe nation.

“Anytime we want to implement technology we have to figure out away to put in fiber, microwave and wireless technology,” said Skow.”You have to get it right away, and that’s been very difficult forus, that’s one of the major roadblocks that stops us fromproceeding.”

Skow said technology is new to the Nation, so it’s an adjustmentperiod for all involved.

“With the influx of technology, we’ve having an influx ofvendors coming in, and they’re trying to put in their ownsolutions, but we want to have a holistic vision and plan toimplement technology,” said Skow.

“There’s some resistance from vendors but as we educate ourpoliticians and all the people involved in implementing the righttechnology, they’re starting to understand and we’re overcomingthose barriers,” he said.