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28 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | MARCH/APRIL 2014 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Digitizing Alaska A pilot project funded by the NTIA yields insights into using broadband to promote learning and earning. By Frank Odasz / Lone Eagle Consulting I n spring 2013, with funding from the NTIA's State Broadband Initiative, Connect Alaska (www.connectak.org) launched a research project to learn directly from members of Alaska Native villages about their use of broadband and technology and to develop best practices for increasing technology use among local residents. As a specialist in rural, remote and indigenous Internet learning since 1997, Lone Eagle Consulting was asked to provide digital workshops for this project. Te approach was to focus on listening and exploring the efectiveness of short, create-and- share, motivational "Web-raising" workshops. We found we could quickly create confdence by imparting fast-track skills, teaching all attendees how to create art e-commerce sites in less than an hour. We also learned that even in remote villages, nearly everyone has a smartphone and that Facebook is the most efective means of sharing news and innovations and is a tool that can be used far more efectively in the near future. Te recent, sudden popularity of mobile devices and social media sets the stage for enjoyable, social learning – mobile learning, which ofers everyone an opportunity for sharing new, entry- level entrepreneurial opportunities. For example, an Alaska Native youth posted photos of painted tennis shoes on Facebook and was inundated with orders even though he was not trying to create his own business. Te same thing happened when another youth (who was trying to start a business) posted Native art on iPhone skins. Used wisely, social media can build local and regional socioeconomic capacity. Tis initial success points the way for future workshops and demonstrates how communities can stimulate local cultures of creativity even without external funding, now that ARR A monies have been spent. Workshop attendees learned to create videos, e-books and other products, and they shared many of these innovations online with all 250-plus Alaska Native villages, in particular the village of Metlakatla, where the workshop was held. Clearly, the Alaska Native tradition of creative adaptation is alive and well. Youth-driven, local innovation incubators could seed local digital-service businesses as young people demonstrate how they can help local citizens and businesses create a culture of use and a culture of digital creativity. A LOCAL CULTURE OF COLLABORATION Te challenge is how quickly a community can create a culture of use, followed by a culture of collaboration, leading to a culture of creativity in which everyone understands the potential win-win of efective collaboration. If we all share what we know, we'll all have access to all our knowledge. Communities must own the opportunity discovery process. BBC_Mar14.indd 28 3/14/14 2:46 PM