Nomadic deployments in Norrbotten County in Sweden

The Saami people live in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia where herding reindeer is a source of employment (for 10 per cent) and of major cultural significance.  The Saami also work in forestry, mining, power generation, health, teaching and computer technology, but many are unemployed and are moving to cities. Norrbotten, where the Saami people live, is the most northerly county of Sweden. The area of Norrbotten served by the Saami Network Connectivity Project (SNC) is sparsely populated and spread over a large area of forest and mountains that lies mainly within the Arctic Circle. Many grazing grounds are in nature reserves that prohibit the installation of masts, suspended cables and other permanent infrastructure. There is relatively little fixed, mobile or satellite phone coverage.

The SCN project originated after an investigation into how to increase the economic, political and social status of Saami women. Women reindeer herders, typically home-based, faced the challenge of tracking herds; traditionally, herding meant long stays away from home. The use of ICTs for planning and tracking herd movements was identified as a possible solution for this challenge. Other uses of ICTs, such as person-to-person communication and collecting information, were identified as being relevant as well. The first SCN project goal is therefore to support email, web access, file transfer and herd tracking telemetry (which requires confidential reporting of herd movements to herders). A later goal is to produce a technology framework for providing Internet access to the populations without access.

As the reindeer herds move between and within winter and summer grazing grounds, the network has wireless links and mobile nodes that suggest the use of mesh networking. Parts of the network become isolated intermittently (because of the terrain, the weather, the community and the limited infrastructure) so messages are collected at the edges of islands of connectivity and delivered when connections become available; the delays in the network therefore exceed those normally suitable for IP applications, and the network has to be delay tolerant. In this the network resembles networks that rely on couriers to move messages to and from islands of connectivity such as schools.

The project has held trial deployments and developed some of the technology needed. A field test in the summer grazing grounds in the mountains showed that the local population could use the technology to send email and to access web pages. The project is now looking at some deployment matters, such as improving email delivery and attaching relays to helicopters (which regularly fly over the area). The Saami community itself is continuing some work toward proper deployments.

Source: Saami Network Connectivity (SNC) Social Impact (Maria Udén, March 2002), Providing connectivity to the Saami nomadic community (Avri Doria and others, December 2002), http://www.snc.sapmi.net/Project-docs/Saami-Network-Connect-final.pdf, Sámi Network Connectivity Project Technical Introduction and Overview (Avri Doria, February 2004), http://www.snc.sapmi.net/Project-docs/technical-overview-02.pdf, http://www.snc.sapmi.net/Project-docs/Social%20Impact%20version%202.pdf, and discussions with Avri Doria.  

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