Exploring the Benefits and Challenges of Community-Powered Connectivity in The New Arctic

This planning grant will launch interdisciplinary research into the design of community-powered telecommunications systems that support the economic, scientific, and socio-cultural needs of Inuvialuit communities in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The Arctic is facing unprecedented changes, from rapid environmental shifts to increased globalization. New technologies and enhanced connectivity offer one set of tools to empower communities to respond to these changes. In spite of strong interest in rural and Northern telecommunications by Arctic states, significant gaps remain in our understanding of how digital infrastructures can be designed to best support the unique needs of Arctic communities. The following are key questions: 1.How can telecommunications infrastructure be redesigned and rearchitected for the rugged and isolated conditions that define Arctic life today? 2.How can telecommunications infrastructure and digital services be redesigned to produce and support Smart Arctic Communities better able to respond to changing environmental and social conditions? 3.What are the social, cultural, and economic implications of increased connectivity for Arctic communities? To answer these questions, funding will be used to plan, deploy, and maintain a pilot community telecommunications network in the Inuvialuit community of Ulukhaktok in the Canadian Arctic. Researchers will work with technology practitioners and community stakeholders to identify current technology conditions and community needs, co-design and build a telecommunications network, and then monitor its longitudinal health and impact on the community. The preliminary results of this work will guide and inform subsequent full research proposals to the NSF Navigating the New Arctic and Smart and Connected Communities Programs

Grant Info


Kurtis Heimerl


Spencer Sevilla


National Science Foundation (NSF) (Total award: $250,000)



Start Date

Jan 1, 2020