Technology to Support Indigenous Governance

Web-based applications

Technology to Support Indigenous Governance

Indigenous institutions and organizations increasingly use web-based applications to support Indigenous governance. A range of innovative tools can assist with information management, elections, polling, communications, membership management, registration of land interests, referrals and consultation management, and other aspects of governance.

Online voting and polling can help to support equality and inclusivity, broadening the opportunity for members to participate in elections and referenda. It can increase voter access and turn-out, particularly in communities with a large off-reserve membership or where high voter turn-out is required, such as ratification of a Land Code, settlement agreement or constitutional amendment. Online voting may be more convenient, such as for the elderly or disabled, or where transportation is poor. Online voting and communications platforms could also engage a younger generation of voters, revitalize an interest in participation in governance, and strengthen the connection between membership and leadership. Several service providers offer applications and consulting services in the areas of voting, polling, membership management and communications.

The federal government is researching the adoption of online voting for federal elections and published a report reviewing the benefits and challenges, country case studies and the Canadian experience.1 The report notes that many jurisdictions use or have tested online voting and states that “[o]nline voting is not a fringe development but is becoming part and parcel of electoral modernization in jurisdictions where it is an appropriate fit and where the necessary preconditions for implementation exist.” Some barriers identified in the report include digital literacy, ballot secrecy, fraud, coercion, “family voting” (i.e. dominant family member influences or controls the vote), authentication, verification, educating voters, loss of voter experience and political will. Many of these problems exist with in-person voting as well. In fact, online voting could limit the potential for voter fraud because the list of community members who have cast a ballot is updated across the platform in real-time. Some important elements to online voting are sending voters easy, clear instructions for how to vote online and using a simple, secure user interface to address education, technical competency and security concerns.

Technologies are available in other interesting areas. Several First Nations use stewardship applications (sometimes called Stewardship Portals) to support Indigenous governance and economic development. These are web-based information management systems used to collect and share data, such as traditional knowledge and ecosystems Geographic Information Systems databases. Some groups also use referrals management applications to track, analyze and coordinate projects, permit applications and Crown referrals, as well as platforms for community-based Indigenous Laws research. These powerful tools could improve the efficiency and quality of the referrals process, helping meet the demands on staff from a growing number of proposed developments in traditional territories.

Another fascinating technology is SmartICE, a tool of ArcticNet’s Nunatsiavut Nuluak project. It integrates remote in situ sensing, satellite imagery and Inuit Knowledge to help address Inuit concerns about the impacts of climate change and modernization in Northern Labrador communities.2

These technologies may not be desirable for every Indigenous group. They come at a cost and rely on a certain capacity level, and leadership and community support. Yet, they could be useful additions to the governance toolkit for improving efficiencies and community engagement in support of sustainable Indigenous governance.


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