Connecting Indigenous Communities

Tuesday November 24: 3:35 – 4:30 PM

Indigenous communities across Canada and the US are among the most underserved in terms of Internet access. In particular, the current COVID pandemic has clearly demonstrated the necessity of internet access to deliver life-essential services, such as home schooling, and remote health services. Remote locations typical of Indigenous communities present critical challenges in delivering reliable and affordable Internet services.

In this session, a panel of experts and members of Indigenous communities, will explore key policy challenges, particularly the higher needs presented by the COVID pandemic, as well as recent successful deployments in Indigenous communities.


John Kealoha Garcia, Nation of Hawaii
Melanie Pilon, Economic Development Officer, Township of Dubreuilville
Michael Furdyk, TakingITGlobal
Tim Whiteduck, Technology for the First Nations Education Council
Mark Buell, Internet Society (moderator)

John Kealoha Garcia

John Kealoha Garcia is an entrepreneur and award-winning creative director based in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Known for his role in building impactful creative for Hawaii’s most influential organizations, John’s forward-thinking leadership and ability to move ideas from concept to completion has contributed to his success over the past 20 years in the industry.

Voted one of Hawaii’s top social media influencers, with design accolades from the Society of Professional Journalism (SPJ) and the American Advertising Federation (AAF) — John’s mindful approach to user experience and keen attention to cross-cultural values bring a fresh perspective to the organizations he serves daily.

In addition to incubating ideas at his creative think tank, Garcia Haus, John serves as executive advisor for the Nation of Hawaii, contributing to the restoration of the sophisticated religion, language and culture of the Native Hawaiian people, who prior to the overthrow, lived in a highly organized, self-sufficient, subsistent social system based on Communal Land Tenure.

Melanie Pilon

Melanie Pilon has a strong background in economic and community development and is committed to effecting positive change in northern Ontario. She is the Regional Broadband Champion for the Northeast Superior Regional Broadband Network (NSRBN) whose mission is to improve broadband connectivity to 9 rural communities located in northern Ontario; 5 First Nations & 4 Municipalities. In September 2019, the NSRBN received the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations (OACFDC) Excellence in Community Development & Innovation. Currently, she holds the position of Economic Development Officer for the Township of Dubreuilville.

Melanie is an active volunteer and holds the position of Chair for both the Superior East Community Futures Development Corporation and the Wawa & Area Victim Services. Considering herself a lifelong learner, she is a student at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia and is a graduate of Laurentian University’s Business Administration program. Melanie is proud to be a member of the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory. She is also an alumni member of the Governor Generals Canadian Leadership Conference (GGCLC).

Michael Furdyk

Michael Furdyk is the Co-founder of TakingITGlobal, which provides innovative global education programs that empower youth to understand and act on local and global challenges. TakingITGlobal’s Connected North program ( provides interactive education resources to more than 100 schools serving 20,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit students in Canada’s remote Indigenous communities. TIG was awarded the Intercultural Innovation Award by BMW and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and was selected as one of Canada’s 10 Most Innovative Non-profits by The Logic. In the past, he turned his interest in technology into several successful online companies, including, which sold to in 1999. He was named by Contribute Magazine as one of 10 Tech Revolutionaries Redefining the Power and Face of Philanthropy.

Michael has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, presented at TED, and was named one of Teen People’s “Twenty Teens that will Change the World”. Over the last decade, he has keynoted over 100 events across sectors, sharing his social media expertise and insights on youth engagement and educational reform to audiences in over 30 countries. Michael completed his Master of Design (MDes) in Inclusive Design at OCAD University and is an Adjunct Instructor for the Master’s Degree in Educational Technology at Long Island University.

Tim Whiteduck

Tim is the Director of Technology for the First Nations Education Council (FNEC) based in Wendake First Nation in Quebec City.

The FNEC represents and serves 22 First Nations communities in Quebec. FNEC aims to achieve full jurisdiction over education while “respecting our unique cultural identities and common beliefs, and promoting our languages, values and traditions.” A core element of this vision is to use technology effectively to support the autonomy and democratic development of First Nations communities.

Tim and his team have been working with the First Nations, as their intermediary organization, developing strategic partnerships to design and install community broadband infrastructure, deliver online and IT training programs, and support the delivery and engagement of broadband-enabled community services including education, health and many others. Tim is a member of the Kitigan Zibi First Nation, an Algonquin community located in the Gatineau region of southwestern Quebec, Canada.

Mark Buell

Mark Buell is the Regional Vice President, North America at the Internet Society. In this role, Mark oversees the Internet Society’s engagement activities in Canada and the United States.

From 2009 to 2016, Mark held a variety of positions with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), the registry for the .CA country code top-level domain. At CIRA, Mark provided senior level support for the organization’s activities in the domestic Internet policy and global Internet governance fora. In 2010, Mark initiated the Canadian Internet Forum, Canada’s Internet Governance Forum and continued to coordinate the event until 2016. 

Prior to joining CIRA, Mark spent a decade working in Indigenous policy, first as a Community Development Officer at an Inuit land claim organization in the Western Canadian Arctic, then as the Director of Communications and Research at the National Aboriginal Health Organization in Ottawa.