I just returned from vacation. Along with several friends, I kayaked through the northern reaches of Baffin Island dodging icebergs and narwhals. One topic during the trip was the impact of mobile connectivity on modern life. Does it improve or degrade the way we live? In the midst of all the natural beauty it was easy to question the value of cell phones, the Internet and satellite TV. And, I admit that being untethered to any electronic device for ten days was wonderful. However, there were things during the trip that demonstrated to me the positive impact of connecting people with common interests or concerns – even in a place as sparsely populated as this.
For several years, I have been reading a wonderful blog written by Clare Kines, a resident of Arctic Bay. I never expected that our paths would cross given where he lives and the distance from my home. But, as it turns out, our kayak trip began in Arctic Bay and I was able to meet Clare over dinner and to listen to his fascinating insights about life in this town of 600 people. Two people with a common interest in the Arctic located thousands of miles apart and meeting solely as the result of blogs and the Internet. It was a fascinating experience.
In speaking with Clare, I discovered that his community is wired for high speed Internet access. That evening, and elsewhere on the trip, I heard examples of how small, formerly isolated towns in the Arctic are using the Internet to share knowledge about common problems. These include the impact of climate change, remote health care access and economic opportunities for the next generation of citizens. And, speaking of these citizens, they are also using the Internet to now have their voices heard by the rest of the world.