Internet to the Hogan
The Internet to the Hogan Project is designed to end the digital divide on the Navajo Nation, a territory slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. It also, in the process, solves what has been called the “last mile problem” and provides a model for educational delivery and economic development based upon the idea that only peoples who can move toward the engine of the world’s technology train can hope to move from the economic basement to the economic high rise. The project is occurring in one of the poorest places in the United States where mountain ranges, high deserts, and canyonlands make even road access difficult to small communities. The Navajo Nation is the heart of the digital divide in the United States, a place where people from remote communities have to drive seven or eight miles down dirt roads impassible during rain or snow storms to get to the nearest phone.
The first phase of the project is designed to build a major wireless pipe using OC3 (155 megabit) speeds tied to the Lambda Rail and Internet 2 from urban Albuquerque, New Mexico to Navajo Technical College (Navajo Tech), a tribal college located in the small community of Crownpoint in Northwest New Mexico. From Crownpoint, using backhaul technology and canopy technology from Motorola and Harris, broadband connectivity is being built to 31 chapterhouses, community centers for social, cultural, and political organization, on the New Mexico side of the Navajo Nation. Canopy technology will allow connectivity to be radiated out to schools, medical clinics, hospitals, police departments, firehouses, and homes within a 15 to 30 mile radius of the chapterhouses. This means that people who have never had access to a personal phone will be able to connect to a computing environment that provides high bandwidth speeds to the World Wide Web and telephony. This allows communication, education, and business possibilities not thought possible just a few years ago.
Combined with the overall connectivity effort is a project element that has built an IBM blade cluster on the Navajo Tech campus. This cluster brings supercomputing capabilities to research and education projects at the college, moving the college toward the forefront of research institutions of higher learning in New Mexico. Tied into both the wireless connectivity and cluster effort is the construction of a supercomputing grid using a technology called Little Fe, which allows the inexpensive building of a cluster that can be located at a school or chapterhouse. These Little Fes effectively make possible a distributed supercomputing grid that can allow research and education activities to take advantage of the enormous powers and speeds of supercomputers tied into a single grid architecture.
The above efforts are supplemented with partnerships built with TeraGrid, a high performance network using high-performance network connections to integrate high-performance computers, data resources, tools, and high-end experimental facilities around the country; the University of New Mexico’s Center for High Performance Computing, and national laboratories, scientists, and universities from around the world. Partnerships are allowing the creation of innovative E-Learning programs designed to use the most advanced communication, scientific, and computing tools available. This will bring the excitement of advanced collaborative education models to the most remote communities in the United States. The E-Learning system, based upon open source software like Moodle, is especially useful for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education that teaches students how to collaborate over distance to achieve new breakthroughs in both individual and scientific knowledge and understanding.
Integrated into all of this is an effort to create a technology knowledge transfer model designed to spin enterprises that can compete in niche and national markets into remote communities, allowing the Navajo people to become leaders in diverse fields ranging from arts and crafts to technological and scientific innovation. The idea is to build an intellectual human resource in the Navajo Nation that can construct a new economic structure for a new century. This economic structure will come about as a result of both entrepreneurship and the powerful draw of human capital well prepared for the high value, high intellect jobs and tasks of the Twenty-First Century.