The Unbanked/ Underbanked of "rural" Alaska

I’ve been reflecting on my travels to Western Alaska on one side of my brain while keeping an eye on this forum with the other, and the two thoughts finally came together.

I know most US citizens in the “lower 48” aren’t aware of the situation there. or if @ETNCEO and @chris.gorman are aware of the opportunity in the region, but here goes.

Once you get off the road system, your Verizon AT&T Sprint whatever doesn’t work anymore. Mobile service is handled by a single provider, GCI. Other than a few larger ones, most villages have between 200-500 people in them. (And I’ve been to many of them.) No bank, no ATM. Credit Cards and E-Commerce are king. Although there is a strong barter and sense of community where people work together. At least one store in a village if they’re lucky, but these are more for the essentials to get by between trips to the larger villages, or the “Big Village,” Anchorage. Also, the beginning of the month usually sees long lines of people getting the essentials and what not with state funds, that are usualy kept track of with a pen and notepad. (No lie, I’ve seen it, not sure how it’s handled afterwards.)There’s no roads connecting the villages to the hubs, so either a plane or boat ride is required. (Yes, there are snow machine trails in the winter and people do drive on the frozen rivers which goes a long way to connect communities.)

The airfare is pretty high, but there’s generous carry on and checking allowance for big totes of supplies. If the weather is real bad for a week or more at a time (it happens) stores run out since everything is shipped in. Internet coverage can be pretty spotty and is typically satellite based. Most villages power come from diesel generators, although there is been a large investment in wind power for the tundra villages.

Now, the one thing every village has, is a GCI cell tower. (As a pilot, it’s good to know where each village’s is when the weather is crummy lol.) This carries both subscription and pay as you go/ top up customers. Every kid has a smart phone believe it or not, and most adults have one or at least a “feature” phone. It’s nothing to see a large group of kids hanging around a school or youth center using the free Wi-Fi.

It’s definitely not as large of a market segment as some of the other areas of the world that are being targeted by ETN, but an opportunity nonetheless. I hope nobody thinks I’m painting a bleak picture, it’s actually quite free and the communities are quite strong. The financial situation is severly lacking and in some ways a hinderance on the people there.

I have a huge heart for them, and it’s why I keep going back. I’d like to one day see the mission of ETN reach them as well.


(I did not take this pic, but I was around…:wink:)

I was in Fairbanks for a couple weeks with the military and can relate to where you are coming from (albeit in a much smaller facet). This is a great idea!

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Thanks @gjfrom . I’ll get to fairbanks one of these days, usualy spend the night in the Ted Stevens airport and then it’s off to the “bush.” Did you get bit by the AK bug? (Don’t mean the skeeters lol)

An example of the largest mobile carrier in the U.S.'s coverage of Alaska.
Anchorage, Kenai peninsula, Fairbanks, sporadic SE, and Deadhorse (oil ops). Rest is GCI.

And then compare to GCI:

The majority of villages have GCI coverage. Some villages have neither. The bare spots in this coverage map are mostly wilderness.

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I’ve been trying not to say it, but I’d like this thread to get a little more traction and shed some more light on the situation.

The simple fact is that our government created a system of dependence to the state with handouts of state money to the native people through multiple generations. What this has in turn created is a region of the U.S. where alcohol and drug abuse, physical abuse, and teen suicide are 5+X the national average. I’ve been serving the youth in this area since 2009, long enough to watch kids grow up and in some cases already have kids of their own.

I can’t tell you how many young men I’ve had tell me, “Sure, I’d love to get a job and work in (XYZ field), but then I wouldn’t get my money.” That same person ends up going through different levels of the legal system instead. Not a general statement, simple unfortunate fact. (That I’ve witnessed several times.)

These same people are often considered second class citizens compared to the predominantly “white” people on the road system.

From the ETN website:

etnwww2

etnwww

:+1: This is what I want to see the mission of Electroneum, financial inclusion and opportunity creation do, to reach these people and help them succeed. I believe more people would choose to do something given a different opportunity.

Please, understand, there’s plenty of young people who choose what they want to do in life and go after it, but the odds are against them. There are families that choose to have a better life for themselves, but daily struggles are wearing on them. Some just giving up and leaving their family and communities behind. Similar situation on the native res’s in the “lower 48” too.

As stated above, I don’t want to paint a horribly bleak picture, but these are the daily struggles and statistics. Fact is, the native communities are very tight knit, and demonstrate the true nature of what human communities can be a lot of the time. I learn so much every time I’m up there.

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Tweeted .

I agree this would be a perfect opportunity …

This isnt painting a bleak picture your sharing the facts , its something we dont know about and i appreciate you sharing this . It opens our eyes to what is going on in the world.

Similar things happen n the u.k in some areas.

This part is very annoying as its the same everywhere , ive applied for jobs and been told im over qualified … ridiculous …

Or ive been told that there’s zero help from the government… and then we do get pushed into a corner and it is very very hard ro get out.

I hope that etn can genuinely help the unbanked and underbanked… give them a goal something to help out

Every little bit of help does genuinely give people a lift in their hearts and their pockets…

:heart:

:chipmunk:

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:grinning:

Life is to precious not to take notice of what os happening around us

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@Dr_Jan_Itor Hey man, thanks for sharing your insight. I think you are correct in saying this would be a great opportunity for Electroneum, and a relatively easy market to get into; English speaking and whatnot. Not only for the cellular and instant payment reasons, but the Gig Guru setup could really change lives in that region of the US.

@ETNCEO @chris.gorman This is a post worth looking into.

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How do you think these alaskans can get involved? Do you have a man on the ground over there? Maybe a pilot? Since he/she goes from town to town???

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Opportunities, and free trade. Good writing up here. We are often tide up on our hands, to use creativity also, due to the holy crap of difficulty overcoming obstacles, just to take on a good idea. Today it dont excist a free trade possibility.
Instead, u can end up in a corner given some living cash and no motivation to do something. Some is never saveable. So it is.
But open the gate to possibility, and many find a way out

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts on here @plankton @satsukeshi @BigBrother305 @JonneHex ! :+1:

I do think the gig economy with the full ecosystem will be key here. Otherwise, it just ends up being more free money for nothing and no incentive to earn more.

The route to market through GCI first is perfect. Then effective marketing of the ecosystem and the opportunities within to build on it. I believe the younger people would be quick to adopt it.

Most of my time there is spent in the region called the “YK Delta.” I am known there, not always by first name basis, but usually “o you’re with X camp and have been for years, I remember you.” Or “o you’re the guy who did X when Y event happened around village C”

I do have a multitude of contacts in the region, various organizations and industries. Pilots are a good one for just that reason @BigBrother305. We can still be viewed like rock stars to most of the kids. The opportunity to see so many villages and meet so many people. One of the air taxis accepting ETN for payment would set it off. Most already have their own rewards programs.

Most of my NGO contacts are faith based organizations, so that might make a direct corporate partnership between ETN and one of them difficult. But I could convince them to take ETN as donation/ payment once the ecosystem is in place. Fact is, there is also a severe lack of strictly humanitarian non profit organizations in the region. Either government backed or faith based, guess which one is trusted more. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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I will also add, each village has a different dynamic for various reasons. One thing in common though, is that can’t just land your plane in Village R, and expect to walk aorund and promote whatever you want. People will literally hide from and avoid you. Doesn’t matter if you’re from the government, a corporation or a faith based organization. If they don’t know who you are, it will take time to earn their trust. It’s pretty awesome though when you do earn it.

My first trip to village K had to be approved by the village elders as this was with a newer organization. There one stipulation was that so much of the day had to be devoted to teaching on native traditions and crafts. Sure! Absolutley! I loved it, sure partly because I am a portion Lower 48 native, but also because I am appreciate other cultures, not just 'Merican. i recognize how much knowledge and traditional methods we’ve lost over the years. Many kids there turn away from their heritage and embrace US hip hop culture, but you can really see their eyes light up when an elder is telling a traditional story or when they get fully engrossed in a project/ craft.

Lastly, there’s something to be said for organizations that have a lasting impact. One week, two week trips certainly aren’t enough. Your contribution can quickly be forgotten. Over time, I partnered with an organization that has been in the region for many many years and is known for helping all who come, turning nobody away. I’m sure it’s a similar situation in other regions of the world too.

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This stand and phone are perfect examples of what would work in this region as well @ETNCEO and @chris.gorman . (I know y’all are extra busy this week, figured I’d tag anyway.)

Most villages have a small grocery store run by the native corporations that are typically open until 5 PM. After that small “house” stores open offering soda, candy, snacks and movie rentals. Usually in someones front room or porch, sometimes in a shed. These become social hotspots when they’re open, especially for the youth. I’ve met many a great people, sharing lively conversation at these stores. I remember one family keeping a Slurpee machine in their kitchen just for this purpose. :grin:

I am blown away by the news of the ETN phone, certainly wasn’t expecting that one. At the $80 USD price point, I think the market in this region will have no problem adopting that. Especially if it’s introduced during the release of the annual PFD.