Commerce Department Calls for More IT Help in American Indian Communities

A U.S. Commerce Department agency has called on the federal government to take the lead in assisting American Indian communities to meet their information technology needs.

In a report summarizing a six-month study, the Economic Development Administration assessed the technology infrastructure of American Indian communities, including telecommunications, utilities and other systems associated with economic development.

The study, conducted from January to June of this year by the New Mexico State University College of Engineering, concluded that American Indian communities continue to lag significantly behind others in technology infrastructure despite considerable progress in recent years. The gap is especially wide in advanced telecommunications such as the Internet and cellular services.

Forty-eight tribes responded to the survey. Only 9 percent of respondents said they had personal computers and 61 percent reported that they did not have a single manufacturing facility in their communities. Also, only 39 percent of households in American Indian communities have telephones, compared with more than 90 percent in non-American Indian rural areas.

The report recommended that the federal government provide additional assistance to these areas and offer incentives to the private sector to invest in American Indian communities.

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