Northern Ontario – Ontario
Friday, 15 February 2013, 03:50 PM
By: Lea Choukroun and Edith Drouin Rousseau, based on an interview with Brian Beaton
MyKnet is a free online social networking site that was created in 1998. The website originally was a mutation of a stand-alone Bulletin Board system that operated since 1994. The goal of the website is to connect people within and between remote First Nation’s communities by providing an online environment to share stories and picture with others. It also acts as a substitute for telephone and community radio. Originally, MyKnet was mainly used by northern Ontario communities, but is now also used in Québec, Manitoba and elsewhere in Canada.
MyKnet possesses currently 30,000 homepages, and is used for diverse activities including telemedicine, local education, business initiatives, online dating, classified ads, community building, online education opportunities (e-learning) and community news. The website is interconnected with a lot of other projects in the community as it is used to “share and promote different activities, projects and gatherings”, according to Brian Beaton, the K-Net services coordinator. Myknet.org is a service that Keewaytinook Okimakanak provides for free and that Mr. Beaton says serves to “act as a stepping stone for First Nation online youth and users to begin their online journey within a safe and learning environment”. This is considered a crucial aspect of developmental initiatives and an important aspect of all educational projects over the world, in the context of ongoing digitalization.
The website was originally coded by KO-Knet’s network manager and multimedia coordinator. The coding of the website has been done with simple html modules providing some basic features, and therefore allowed user to later produce their own html code to fit their utilisation of the website.
What is also interesting about the coding of MyKnet is that it was created before Facebook. This way we can see that the project was not a transfer or an imitation of something already existing, but a project developed especially for and by First Nation communities. Mr. Beaton affirms that some users migrated to Facebook, but then returned to MyKnet, stating that they were “getting sick of what they saw there”. It demonstrates that there is, in fact, an important difference between the two social networks, with one fitting the way of life of First Nations better than the other.
MyKnet is an example for technology and innovation that originated from within the community and is proudlyprojected outwards. This is contrasted to projects where technology that is developed elsewhere and arrives in the community ready to use, but pre-determined in its uses and possibilities. In contrast to many traditional development communication projects, this innovative initiative not only demonstrates the its ability to support community needs, but it also denotes development strategies as such. As underlined by Mr Beaton, “Myknet.org has always been, and continues to be, a free and open service provided by Keewaytinook Okimakanak”.
Find out more
Budka, P., Bell, B. & Fiser, A. (2009). MyKnet.org: How Northern Ontario’s First Nations Communities Made Themselves At Home On The World Wide Web. The Journal of Community Informatics. 5(2).