August 22, 2007

Web warriors for culture

Navajos Turn To Technology Vs. ProblemsNavajo leaders see tradition-based technology—tools that help preserve their customs and culture—as the way to ensure the Native American nation's survival.

"What we're trying to do is to get caught up with the rest of the world and at the same time, help ourselves to be independent—standing on our own—and get back to having pride," said Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr.

The Navajo Nation is setting up wireless Internet access in its 110 "chapter houses," which work like municipal governments for communities of 200 to 9,000 people.

Some 40% of the chapter houses have computer centers. Leaders hope eventually to have five Web Warriors for each of them. So far, the program has trained a total of 10.

The Navajos are learning to use the technology for land-use planning, geographical data analysis, demographic research and planning and estimating capital expenditures for infrastructure.

E-commerce is another benefit. Navajo artisans can sell their renowned turquoise and silver jewelry and rugs online.

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