September 2007

ICTs and indigenous people

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Indigenous peoples in every country have not benefited from mainstream development and much less from the information society. Living on the fringes of society they are not only denied the most basic human rights but are also excluded from participating in the world that is changing due to the use of ICTs. A look at the situation.

Recorded history is re-plete with examples that with the march of invading groups, original inhabitants have been driven out of their homes and lands. This story has repeated itself all round the world countless times. Indigenous people (as the original inhabitants are known) have been displaced to the margins of society and have seen their cultures being eroded, their traditional lifestyles being displaced, their lands taken away (most often forcibly) and are subject to all possible kinds of exploitation. As a result they have been left out of the mainstream development.

Who are indigenous peoples?

United Nations human rights bodies, the International Labour Organisation, the World Bank and international law apply four criteria to distinguish indigenous peoples:

1. Indigenous peoples usually live within, or maintain an attachment to, geographically distinct ancestral territories.

2. They tend to maintain distinct social, economic and political institutions within their territories.

3. They typically aspire to remain distinct culturally, geographically and institu-tionally rather than assimilate fully into national society.

4. They self identify as indi-genous or tribal.

There is no universal and unambiguous definition of the concept of 'indigenous peoples', since no single accepted definition exists that captures the diversity of their cultures, histories and current circumstances. However, all attempts to define the concept recognise the linkages between people, their land and culture.

A widely used working definition of indigenous peoples, proposed by the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, argues that indigenous populations are

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