RICTA - Research on ICT (information and communication technologies) with Aboriginal Communities

A short video about RICTA and the founding meeting can be viewed online by clicking here.

A two-page information sheet about RICTA can be downloaded by clicking here.

Across Canada, Aboriginal communities are considering how information and communication technologies (ICT) can help them reach their development goals. Research on ICT with Aboriginal Communities (RICTA), a new research cluster, is building a critical mass of knowledge that Aboriginal communities can both contribute to and tap into on their paths to achieving their aspirations.

RICTA is about building alliances of support for action-research approaches and building bridges between academic, government and funding institutions and Aboriginal communities. The research fostered by the RICTA cluster will be intellectually important if it can be applied in meaningful ways in Aboriginal communities and create a research environment in which Aboriginal peoples become active participants, preparing for the possibilities and challenges that are upon us now and await us in the future.

The RICTA cluster members are more than 40 people working with universities, community research institutes, Aboriginal organizations, government and the private sector. RICTA is creating a space to challenge the status quo both at the funding and at the academic institution levels. The RICTA platform has the potential to create a legitimate voice for change to shift both funding and research organizations.

RICTA has the potential to set out a framework of contemporary Aboriginal Peoples ICT projects that not only focus on the 'decolonization aspirations' of particular Aboriginal communities but also gaze towards the development of global research and Indigenous strategic alliances. RICTA has the potential to develop a model for collaborative research that could be emulated in other community settings in Canada and in developing regions.

Working with Aboriginal communities implies conducting research that is inclusive and respectful of the experiences, knowledge and wisdom of different cultures and recognizing non-Western and non-scientific frameworks for conducting and disseminating research. The RICTA principles are:

  • Working WITH Aboriginal communities
  • Using information and communication technologies (ICT) strategically and creatively
  • Building local capacity to develop and conduct research
  • Holding cluster meetings in communities that facilitate Aboriginal participation
  • Facilitating connection and trust among diverse cluster members

Working with Aboriginal communities facilitates social and cultural contributions and exchanges through the development of innovative delivery and reporting strategies and disseminating research in a culturally-sensitive manner.

A distinctive feature of the RICTA cluster is its use of ICT. The RICTA cluster is demonstrating leadership with ICT processes and supporting others to become comfortable in virtual environments and communities. Using ICT strategically and creatively includes using videoconferencing, web streaming and web chat to allow cluster members and potential members across Canada and internationally to participate in events.

For example, the founding RICTA meeting held in March 2005 used a videoconference bridge to connect more than 50 RICTA members and guests in Balmertown, Fredericton, Ottawa, Toronto, Akwesasne, Guelph, Six Nations, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Sandy Lake First Nation and Sioux Lookout.

RICTA recognizes the need to develop a cadre of researchers from participant communities to lead and participate in research on ICT with Aboriginal communities. Building local research capacity means locating research within a community development approach that leads to empowerment.

Facilitating trust and connection implies being clear about type of engagement the cluster is asking of its members, how the members’ input will be incorporated, and what will be done with the input received. It means adopting principles of consensus-building, inclusiveness, participation and democracy.

Research on ICT with Aboriginal communities is a critical but new research area in the multidisciplinary context. RICTA’s work will focus on three groups of priority activities:

  1. Interactive engagement and bridge-building
  2. Research collaboration and knowledge impact
  3. Outreach and facilitating change

To date, the RICTA cluster has realized some significant achievements and produced tangible outcomes in the following areas:

  • Facilitating interactive engagement
  • Facilitating research collaboration and maximizing knowledge impact
  • Being a leader in using ICT for cluster-building
  • Working to secure financial support
  • Engaging Aboriginal communities and potential funders, supporters and members