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"Smart" initiative for First Nations.

First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario are heading down a new road to economic prosperity and development thanks to the Kuh-ke-nah Network (K-Net) of Smart First Nations, one of several Aboriginal Smart Community Demonstration Projects taking place across the country.

The project, launched simultaneously in Sioux Lookout, Balmertown, North Spirit Lake and Keewaywin on July 6, is part of the Government of Canada's Connecting Canadians initiative, which aims to make Canada the most connected nation in the world.

"Smart' is the concept used to describe the development of communication tools and technologies within a community to share resources, to work together, to build the community in a healthy way,' K-Net co-ordinator Brian Beaton says.

Beaton says funding for the project was arranged through a 50-50 deal with the government; the Kuh-ke-nah Network of Smart First Nations will receive over $4.5 million in matching funds from Industry Canada over three years.

Aside from the five communities directly involved, Deer Lake, Fort Severn, Keewaywin, North Spirit Lake and Poplar Hill First Nations, additional funding was provided by business and education partners, including the Assembly of First Nations, Telecommons Development Group, OshkiPimache-O-Win Education and Training, Confederation College, Telesat Canada, Bell Canada, Education Network of Ontario, NORTH Network, Cisco Canada and others.

Each partner will carry out their own projects in partnership with K-Net that will tie into one of five Smart Services, Beaton says.

"Within our network, what we're developing are telehealth applications in partnership with the NORTH Network," Beaton says. "That began about three years ago out of Timmins and now, with a recent announcement of $8.5 million we've been able to expand that to every hospital to our five First Nations."

Other aspects of the project include community information technology centres in each of the Keewaytinook Okimakanak First Nations; the K-Net Portal, a high-speed, interactive gateway to community information and services and data warehouses for information storage and retrieval.

Twelve smart communities across Canada will make up the Aboriginal Smart Community Demonstration Project.
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Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 2001
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