Spotlighting Indigenous Technology

On March 19, 2024, Cultural Survival, a Channel grantee, published the first edition of its 48th quarterly magazine titled Indigenizing Emerging Technologies spotlighting the intersection between Indigenous Peoples and technology.  

Addressing a rarely-examined intersection, the magazine features eight articles highlighting the use of technology in Indigenous communities. These include AI’s role in exacerbating violence and inequality, the use of AI in tracking salmon migration, Indigenous representation in video games, and the use of Indigenous languages in coding. Focused on fighting for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and sovereignty, Cultural Survival herewith delves into Indigenous leaders as solution builders rather than simply excluded and discriminated against.

One article, in particular, examines the intersection with gender: “Naapu Ntomonok Supporting Samburu Women in Kenya Through an App” explores the pastoralist Indigenous Samburu community in the North Rift of north-central Kenya. The article highlights Lilian Nguracha Balanga, of Samburu descendant, and founder of Women Conserve, a grassroots organization within the Samburu community that “works to elevate women’s leadership and voices in environmental conservation through providing access to education and tools to protect their animals and local environments.”  Nguracha conducts this work though the development of the Naapu Ntomonok (Uplifting Women) App. 

The article highlights the role of Samburu women in wildlife stewardship and the challenge of accessing safe drinking water within Kenya. It states that only 60 percent of Kenyans have access to safe drinking water and emphasizes how women are traditionally responsible for the collection of water.  

Through the Naapu Ntomonok App, Nguracha “identified an opportunity to harness the power of technology to turn the burdensome chore of collecting water into an empowering experience for Indigenous women.” To combat the impact of climate change which has negatively affected the ability of Samburu women to identify water resources, the app provides valuable maps and resources to “help the women mark the boundaries of their territories and identify areas where clean water is available.” The app also allows users to find mobile markets, nearby hospitals and clinics, and wildlife migration routes.

Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Rights Radio Coordinator, Shaldon Ferris, spoke with Nguracha. Ferris asked inquired about Women Conserve, how Nguracha got into technology, and about the Naapu Ntomonok App.

Nguracha discusses Women Conserve, stating that it “is championing women to be great leaders and conservationists” and uplifting Samburu women whos voices are often limited. In regards to the app, Nguracha explains that she “wanted the people, the Samburu women, the Samburu youth, to share their stories, their skills, and their knowledge in the Samburu language, to use that technology to map out the dispensaries where the women go to access medicine and give birth, the fertile lands they can cultivate, and the markets.” The Naapu Ntomonok Samburu App is still in development. 

Most of all, Samburu emphasizes that she “wanted to bring the science part of it and the Traditional Knowledge part of it together” as Indigenous people are often left out of the technology field.