Digital Indigenous Democracy

Digital Indigenous Democracy is a proposal to the Canada Media Fund Experimental Stream for $1 million funding in 2011-12. It is a partnership among IsumaTV, NITV (Nunavut Independent TV Network), the Hamlet Councils of seven Baffin Island communities led by Igloolik, and scholars from Carleton University and Mount Allison University. You can DOWNLOAD the complete proposal by PDF here in three parts: Part 1: DID/Text; Part 2: DID/Support and Part 3: Screenshots. You can READ our one-page Executive Summary below.

Digital Indigenous Democracy: Political Networking 3.0 Among Slow-speed Inuit Communities
How is it innovative?
Digital Indigenous Democracy (DID) is the innovative use of interactive digital media by 8 remote Baffin Island Inuit communities in the face of two immediate existential threats to their survival. First, global digital media will make their 4,000 year-old oral language extinct unless they begin to create digital media in Inuktitut by the next generation. Second, a rapid increase of multinational mining development threatens to overwhelm Inuit communities who lack the information and communication tools to protect themselves. Global warming has triggered a multinational ‘rush’ in the Baffin region for gold, uranium, diamonds and the world’s richest iron ore deposit ever discovered. Because this is Canada, not Congo, environmental assessment processes guarantee Inuit rights to participate in decision-making that affects their future. Unfortunately, interactive digital media tools that make such participation possible or effective – providing information, communication and political organization – do not work in low-bandwidth Baffin communities. To overcome this handicap, DID installs in each slow-speed community a low-cost, innovative package of community-based technology that allows users to jump the Digital Divide and use interactive media at high-speed. As the world’s first digital public space for Indigenous people to interact freely as equals in their own languages and exchange Indigenous know-how and millennial experience, DID helps humanity navigate what will be an unpredictable and dangerously challenging 21st Century.

• Digital Indigenous Democracy innovates technology, installing low-cost local server MediaPlayers, Open Mesh wireless networks and internet-enabled interactive local TV channels that allow slow-speed, low-bandwidth Inuit communities, currently 500 times behind Toronto in cost-per-KB, to use IsumaTV’s interactive multimedia tools – upload, download, mobile applications and networking – at high-speed.

• Digital Indigenous Democracy innovates politically, applying traditional Inuit values of collaboration, consensus decision-making, environmental stewardship and resourceful adaptation to modern new media; and building a unique communication partnership between Inuktitut-speaking communities and scientific researchers to insure Inuit benefit from information essential to their survival that was formerly inaccessible and unintelligible to them. DID’s Baffin Environmental Assessment Community Engagement Network (BEACEN) connects 8 Inuit communities with key academic partners from Carleton and Mount Allison Universities; and reaches out to other Indigenous communities in Canada and worldwide. This revolutionary combination of traditional Inuit values, modern scientific research and new media technologies creates a positive public model of informed cooperation for Canada and other governments and cultures to follow.

• Digital Indigenous Democracy innovates creatively, integrating tradition and technology to invent new forms of interactivity – in narrative storytelling; boundaries between fact and myth; the creative tension between action and patient attention; and media conversion, not translation, of literacy to orality – that bring Indigenous imagination into today’s state-of-the-art multimedia conversation for the first time. DID demonstrates this throughout Nunavut, across Canada and to a worldwide audience through BEACEN InteractiveTV, a series of 12 monthly interactive online broadcasts hosted in participating communities, that assemble through the year the collective practice of digital democracy to change the historical imbalance of power and information between local Indigenous communities and multinational mining companies moving into their lands.

What is the targeted market? How is the product different?
Digital Indigenous Democracy brings together Canada’s most talented Indigenous media artists – Dr. Zacharias Kunuk O.C. (Atanarjuat The Fast Runner), Neil Diamond (Reel Injun), Dr. Alanis Obomsawin O.C. (Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance) among others – to imagine an evolution of internet not limited to technical breakthroughs for highest-speed urban users; but as innovations of purpose, enabling 3.0 political networking among Canada’s least privileged and most marginalized citizens. DID is unique: no media organization, university, government agency or NGO in Canada or any developed country currently targets the dangerous consequences of leaving internet service in its remote Indigenous communities hundreds of times behind advancing national standards.

How will we generate revenue and sustainability?
By CMF’s own definition, our result aims for nothing short of ‘revolution’: equal democratic new media empowerment of Inuit and Aboriginal citizens in their own languages and points of view, solving real problems at high-speed working together in a 3.0 political network. Sustainability of common costs will be generated from membership fees contributed by participating communities, and by outside Sponsor organizations that pay to join the network to be able to communicate with remote users using high-speed interactive multimedia.


Norman Cohn's picture

by Norman Cohn

04 May 2011



baffin island mining, Baffin Land iron mining environment Inuit Igloolik, DID, digital indigenous democracy, environmental assessment, high-speed, Human Rights, low bandwidth, new media, zach zacharias kunuk


Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

More from: IsumaTV

  • More Digital Indigenous Democracy news

    by: Norman Cohn

    channel: IsumaTV

    Attached as PDF: news of imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts call for submissions for its October 2011 festival; Also: invitation to attend a conference in November 2011 on building an Indigenous Film Network by the International Sami Film Centre in Kautokeino, Norway. Also see DID on IsumaTV.


  • Digital Indigenous Democracy

    by: Norman Cohn

    channel: IsumaTV

    Digital Indigenous Democracy is a proposal to the Canada Media Fund Experimental Stream for $1 million funding in 2011-12. It is a partnership among IsumaTV, NITV (Nunavut Independent TV Network), the Hamlet Councils of seven Baffin Island communities led by Igloolik, and scholars from Carleton University and Mount Allison University.



    by: David Ertel

    channel: imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival

    IsumaTV is the world’s first NORTHERN INTERNET DISTRIBUTOR for Inuit and Aboriginal films, TV and new media.

    IsumaTV currently streams free over 5000 films in 50 languages in two quality compressions:

    • High Bandwidth gives the best quality media streaming on the internet for users with good high-speed broadband;

    • Low Bandwidth gives the best quality media streaming on the internet for users with limited, low bandwidth service. This allows most media files to play in remote northern communities with the lowest speed internet.

    IsumaTV also offers Best Quality Video-on-Demand (VOD) distribution in Standard Definition, 720pHD or 1080pHD to filmmakers who want to deliver films by internet to viewers, theatres, festivals or digital projection screenings. VOD filmmakers choose how, when and for what fees they want their films to be available. Best Quality VOD can be used to sell films as pay-per-view, distribute films to institutional buyers or deliver films – in their best original quality – to festivals or digital theatres around the world.

    AS A CANADIAN NORTHERN INTERNET DISTRIBUTOR, IsumaTV may be able to issue ELIGIBLE LICENSE FEES or Eligible Minimum Guarantees to enable Inuit and Aboriginal filmmakers to trigger access to national financing from the CMF Aboriginal Fund or Telefilm Feature Film Fund. IsumaTV commitments of Eligible License Fees or Eligible Minimum Guarantees of 10% or more of a film’s production budget allows the filmmaker to apply to CMF, Telefilm, Provincial or Territorial film commissions and regional/federal Tax Credits to obtain the remaining 90% needed to complete the film’s financing. This LEVERAGE of a broadcaster/distributor’s first commitment allows filmmakers to multiply or ‘trigger’ production financing dollars at up to 10-to-1.

    This change in the 2010-11 Aboriginal Language Fund guidelines allows producers to propose projects to IsumaTV for Eligible License Fees with or without a conventional TV broadcaster. IsumaTV Eligible License Fees may be used to apply for CMF Convergence Stream financing of up to $400,000 for production and $200,000 for digital media. IsumaTV accepts license proposals both for conventional linear TV productions or new forms of production made specifically for the internet.

    More information on CMF Guidelines:

    Aboriginal Program Funding

    Experimental Stream

    Convergent Stream

    View Internet Distribution Panel from the imagineNATIVE Film Festival Oct 23, 2010


    HOW TO APPLY for IsumaTV Eligible License Fees

    Send your proposal to

    • There is no application form. Explain your project in your own words or your own language: who you are, what you want to do and how much it costs.

    • You can apply by Video Submission: use your webcam or any other camera to explain your project in your own language in your own way. Send us your video by mail to: IsumaTV, 4521 Clark Street, suite 302, Montreal, Quebec, H2T 2T3. Or send us your video electronically, by Facebook or uploaded to IsumaTV.

    • Look at IsumaTV to understand the kinds of films we show. Our priority is to license projects that work best on our website, that are made for the internet or that are original and important in some way.

    • IsumaTV can only offer licenses to Canadian Aboriginal films that can qualify under the CMF Aboriginal Program, and we prioritize projects that are created from an Aboriginal perspective.

    • An IsumaTV License or Minimum Guarantee is NOT a grant. We are buying the right to show your film on our website. An IsumaTV license or guarantee MUST follow the rules of the Canadian media system. We can offer a producer between 10% to 50% of your TOTAL production budget. The rest of your budget has to come from other sources. This is called Leverage. An IsumaTV license or guarantee can be your first commitment that allows you to apply to other sources to ‘trigger’ or ‘leverage’ the rest of the money you need.

    • The one thing WE REQUIRE is a budget. Your budget should show how you can do what you propose to do to be sure we will get your film at the end. Since IsumaTV only can contribute between 10% to 50% of your budget, you also have to show where you plan to get the rest of your money. Like all other distributors or broadcasters, IsumaTV only can pay its license fee or minimum guarantee when you have approval for ALL your budget from ALL your sources.

    QUESTIONS? Email to


    Section 3.2.TV.5 of the Aboriginal Program guidelines defines a Canadian Broadcaster:

    "A Canadian broadcaster described in (b) above is a broadcaster licensed by the CRTC, including private, public, educational, specialty, pay-per-view broadcasters, and CRTC-licensed VOD services. In this Program only, as a pilot initiative, the CMF may consider a digital distributor to be a Canadian broadcaster for the purposes of providing Eligible Licence Fees to an Applicant based in northern Canada (i.e. Nunavut, the Yukon Territory, or the Northwest Territories) if the CMF determines that the digital distributor: is a company that is Canadian-controlled (as determined for the purposes of sections 26 to 28 of the Investment Canada Act); operates in northern Canada; provides services and/or content that is targeted to Aboriginal communities in northern Canada; and licences Eligible Projects for distribution via digital platforms. In such a case, the CMF will interpret the remainder of section 3.2.TV.5 in a flexible manner so as to allow the digital distributor to provide Eligible Licence Fees. The CMF will determine whether a digital distributor qualifies for this pilot initiative on a case-by-case basis".