Joining forces
Aboriginal firms will provide communication services to Northerners

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 09/97) - Two aboriginal firms are forming a joint venture to market communication services in the Northwest Territories.

Deton'Cho Corporation of Yellowknife will pool its resources and local knowledge with Abenaki Associates of Ottawa.

"They've identified a great need for technical information up North -- not just for aboriginals but for all people," says Percy Barnaby, president of Abenaki Associates.

"Fifty per cent of First Nations in Canada use our software -- mostly financial programs," says Barnaby.

But First Nations in the country also use software developed by Abenaki for social assistance, education management, housing, membership lists and new venture software, he says.

Barnaby, a Micmac originally from the East Coast, was in Fort Resolution last week installing an area network for the local council.

He's been serving First Nation businesses since 1984, when he and his wife left the government to start their company. Their first major accomplishment was developing their own software, says Barnaby.

Abenaki Associates provides computer-based communications services to communities, businesses and organizations to help them become self-reliant.

The firm currently serves more than 10,000 clients in more than 500 aboriginal communities.

Barnaby says he met Darrell Beaulieu on an airplane four or five years ago. They have since decided to build the joint venture partnership.

The search began last year when several firms were approached by Deton'Cho as prospective partners to provide communication services to Akaitcho communities and the growing number of resource developers coming into the territory.

The plan is that Barnaby will deliver the training and Beaulieu will organize training and make hardware available.

"I hope to train trainers up there," Barnaby says. Much of the training would be in the communities, as well as on-site in Yellowknife.

"One thing that's really popular is computer technicians training -- teaching someone in the community to use DOS or Windows, use software, install a network, take apart and put together a computer." After that, depending upon the needs of the particular community, they could learn accounting programs, the Internet or project management.

The focus will centre on community needs, as has been done in the past with other First Nations groups, but they're also targeting resource development companies.

In addition to these services, Abenaki provides a national help desk for satellite receivers that hook up to computers.

Darrell Beaulieu says the joint venture falls in line with Deton'Cho's mandate of identifying unique economic opportunities.

Beaulieu hopes the endeavor will help his own people provide communication services to mining exploration companies. And he hopes the current limited services are expanded either in the Western Arctic or, at some future time, at a pan-Arctic level.

Abenaki Associates is a federally incorporated aboriginal company with offices in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Akwesasne, Que.

Deton'Cho Corporation is 100 per cent owned by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.