User Experience: Scott Franks

 EXPERIENCE First Nations SchoolNet: Breaking Barriers videoconferencing system

“TheFirst Nations SchoolNet project provides IT infrastructure andeducation and resources to both northern communities and First Nationscommunities. It’s part of the (non-profit organization) KeewatpinCareer Development Corporation (KCDC). I’m 19 now, and I startedworking with the KCDC when I was in school. When I was 14 it was a job,(while last summer) I was interested in this as a volunteer.

“BreakingBarriers is a videoconferencing project that connected tribal councils.(This was an alternative to) outsourcing to city centres, and alsoconsidered how the tribal councils interact as far as sovereignty goesand the high costs. It was a pilot project…(that also involved)teaching Microsoft Office programs.

“The idea behind it was that once the program was set up at differenttribal councils, they could also do some community-based videoconferencing with (everyone from) astronauts to hockey players. It’sgetting used in indigenous communities as the tribes use it to pursueinter-tribal relations. It can be applied in so many different fields.My interns are trained in IT, and then they can take that back home andto the reserve. It’s providing an opportunity for tribal councils todevelop IT.

“Someof the hardest parts of working with the SchoolNet project wasimplementing the hardware, as sometimes the Internet speeds weren’tfast enough. Some had to use different applications while(videoconferencing), so they would use a chat-based program. So wemight not see each other and talk at the same time.

“The project is now sponsored by SaskTel, with 60 different locations in schools and tribal councils.”

Installed a VPN network as part of the Breaking Barriers project “Weinstalled it because of two issues: security and bandwidth. This makesall the difference, as you can have uploads and downloads at the sametime without too much strain on the bandwidth. It’s easier to implementthat than having people working with assigned IP addresses. And withsign-in specific keys, you can see who signed on and what they’re doingto track traffic.”

? EDUCATION Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific, currently completing international baccalaureate diploma

“Theschool system has a lot to do with supporting my IT interests becauseof the school/workplace program that got me into KCDC. And I’ve alwaysbeen interested in sci-fi, computers, and IT. I had no access to acomputer (when I was growing up), but I could think about what IT coulddo and I fell in love with it. When I was 12, my Grandpa got a computerand after it arrived, I was putting viruses on there as quickly as Icould and taking them off just as fast. That’s where I got interestedin it, really — I’m a hands-on, tinkering-around kind of person.”


“I’mgoing to go to McGill University for the international community thatis similar to the one that is at my school currently with 150 of thestudents from 88 different countries. I have an interest in FirstNations politics and issues throughout the world, so I am hoping thatat McGill, there will be an international community.

“I’vebeen looking at different (non-profit) organizations in Montreal, andI’m hoping that this scholarship will allow me to devote more time tovolunteering, like in the Computers for Schools program. Whatever I dowith IT will be more a personal interest (I’ll be taking classes aselectives), but I’m going to be involved with IT for the rest of mylife.”

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