Presentation Details

The Fourth International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organisations

The Alberta SuperNet, Aboriginal Communities and the New Knowledge Economy: A Study of the Impact of the SuperNet on Blackfoot and Cree Aboriginal Communities

Dr Frits Pannekoek.

The social, political, and economic impact of the Alberta SuperNet, a 10,000 kilometre fibre optic highway; the expectations it would create; and the need for content were not addressed in any detail at the time of its conception. The Euro-Canadian belief that technology itself would be the solution to a community's ills - considered to be largely the product of isolation anyway - dominated planning.
The key assumption by the Alberta government and indeed even by its arms-length agencies, such as The Alberta Library (TAL) which connected over 350 libraries over the NET, was that information was largely a technological and not a cultural issue, that the sorts of connectivity and content-creation initiatives that TAL and Alberta Learning, the Ministry responsible for Education, were undertaking constituted the best and most complete uses of a network delimited solely by the parameters of the technology. Progress would depend largely on the rollout of the technology - nothing more and nothing less.
Studies of digital technology in disadvantaged communities indicate that it has precipitated incredible hope. Professors Don Schon and Bish Sanyal caution against digital utopianism, but at the same time do acknowledge the power of digital environments. Information Technologies (IT) can alter the mechanics of government, of business, and of family and of community interactions.
Evidence suggests however, that while the digital environment holds promise, the outcome will hardly be uniformly utopian. Rather, its impact will be determined both by the culture and the circumstances of the individual community, as well as the wisdom of individual scholars and central and community governments.
As Aboriginal populations become increasingly significant in rural communities, it is critical that their educational, health, economic and political needs be paramount in the planning of digital connectivity and content. Aboriginal Canadians must have the opportunity to shape not only their own communities, but also their neighbourhoods.
Many Aboriginal communities assume that the internet can be an instrument used for community good. It can communicate cultural content in a synchronous way, validate communities and in so doing reduce social stresses that are manifested through social indicators of wellness. This paper discusses several projects in Northern and Southern Alberta which involve building Aboriginal community capacity within the new knowledge economy.


Dr Frits Pannekoek  (Canada)
Director of Information Resources
Information Resources
University of Calgary

Dr. Frits Pannekoek is Director of Information Resources at the University of Calgary. He is also an associate professor in the Faculty of Communication and Culture. His research interests lie in the impact of digital technology and the commodification of information on marginalized cultures. He was one of the leaders of the Canadian Information Deficit Conference. His most recent publication is David Taras, Frits Pannekoek and Maria Bakardjieva, eds. How Canadians Communicate (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2003. In that volume he also contributed an essay on "Canadian Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution: the last Five Years. Dr. Pannekoek is on the Executive of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, and been the chair of Health Knowledge Network, and The Alberta Library. He has been active in the development of the new knowledge economy within his province and ci

  • new knowledge economy
  • Aboriginal involvement
  • Canadian digital environment
  • SuperNet

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)