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Accepted Paper:

E-Governance: A Tool for Indigenous Digital Sovereignty or Digital-Colonisation?  
Diane Smith (ANU)

Paper short abstract:

The fast-growing field of Electronic or E-Governance appears to offer potentially powerful digital tools for First Nations to enact self-determined governance. But it also has the power to undermine self-determined Indigenous participation and voice, and perpetuate unequal power relations. The paper addresses the question of how E-Governance can be governed by First Nations in self-determined ways.

Paper long abstract:

AI has profound implications for First Nations peoples in Australia and internationally. In particular, as a result of digital and online application of information and communication technologies it has given rise to a paradigm shift in the way governance is conducted globally. The fast-growing field of Electronic or E-Governance appears to offer potentially powerful digital tools for enacting self-determined governance; including how First Nation governments and representative organisations make collective decisions, manage information, transact business, provide services, and take actions on behalf of their citizen members, as well as for how citizen members participate in their own nation’s governance. However E-Governance also comes with considerable challenges (cultural, political, economic and social) that have the power to undermine self-determined Indigenous participation and voice, and perpetuate unequal power relations.

Indigenous peoples in Australia are creatively exploring, strategically adopting and customising digital tech – giving rise to digital hybridities imbued with their cultural imperatives and values. Sometimes these are the result of deliberate innovation, sometimes in response to dire circumstances such as the Covid-19 Pandemic. But there is also a digital divide in Australia owing to the ongoing impacts of settler colonialism, and now its digital normalisation of Western values, rules and lifestyles. In this context of both great promise and great risk, the paper draws on research to address the question: How can E-Governance be governed by First Nations in self-determined ways? At the heart of this question lie many others: Is the Indigenous digital divide leading to an E-Governance divide? Is it possible to have culture-centred E-Governance? Can AI algorithms be decolonised? How might Indigenous Nations exercise digital sovereignty? What principles that might inform digital sovereignty and E-Governance by Indigenous peoples?

Panel P19a
The promises and challenges of the AI and digital environment for Indigenous peoples' sovereign futures
  Session 1 Tuesday 7 June, 2022, -