Connected North helps Nunavut youth connect across digital divide

Connected North program connects youth from Nunavut with experts and students from across Canada, but has faced a setback in Cape Dorset school fire.

'It does break my heart,' says Jennifer Corriero, 'youth are living on the wrong side of the digital divide'

Students at Arviat's John Arnalukjuak High School spent the week listening to inspirational talks and connecting with young people from across Canada — without ever having to set foot on a plane.

The week of events was organized by TakingITGlobal, a youth-oriented NGO which held an art event in the Nunavut community last year, and Cisco's Connected North Program. 

"It's really a chance to build upon the momentum and the leadership of youth," said Jennifer Corriero, the co-founder of TakingITGlobal. 

Last Wednesday, John Arnalukjuak High School was one of ten Canadian schools to take part in an event for Global Dignity Day. 

An estimated 2,000 students from across Canada used teleconferencing technology to listen to Emery Rutagonya, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, and Ashley Callingbull, who made headlines around the globe this year when she became the first First Nations woman and the first Canadian to win the Mrs. Universe pageant.

'It does break my heart'

Corriero says it's just the most recent example of how the Connected North program is allowing Nunavut students to overcome the digital divide.

"It's a challenge," she said. "It does break my heart to see how many youth are living on the wrong side of the digital divide and how communities in Nunavut are missing out on opportunities to have voice."

TakingITGlobal took over facilitating collaborations between Connected North classrooms in September and says students in Iqaluit and Arviat made use of the program 20 times. 

"We've had experts giving guest speeches or demonstrations in the classroom. We've done North-North connections and North-South connections."

Cape Dorset lost tech in fire

Since the Connected North program first launched in Nunavut last year, it has expanded to three communities: Iqaluit, Arviat and Cape Dorset. 

But Corriero says students in Cape Dorset haven't had the chance to teleconference with any experts or other students this year because the technology was lost when Peter Pitseolak High School was destroyed by fire last month.

"Hopefully we'll get the opportunity to connect with Cape Dorset through the technology again," she said.

"Cisco's working hard to see about a replacement unit." 

Corriero doesn't want the Connected North program to stop there, since there are communities across Nunavut that could benefit from the opportunities the program provides.

"There's no announcement to be made," she said, "but my hope and enthusiasm and support is fully behind it."


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