U of M researcher awarded for app helping Indigenous communities collect and own data
University of Manitoba researcher honored for her work in creating an app that enables Indigenous communities to survey their residents on health and social issues and take ownership of the data they collect.
Dr. Moneca Sinclaire, researcher in the Department of Environment and Geography, received the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation – Indigenous for her work with the app.
“I think that opens the door for others to learn about the project,” she said in an interview with CTV News Winnipeg on Friday.
“I am very honored that he was selected because for me it shows that people are listening and understanding that we as Indigenous people want to be able to collect our own data and have data sovereignty.”
Sinclaire explained that the app was originally designed with questions around COVID-19.
From there, the chiefs and councils asked if they could use the app to collect other types of information as well.
“The whole notion of data sovereignty is that this is research for Indigenous Peoples and by Indigenous Peoples, so we said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ Said Sinclaire.
She said the app has now evolved, with communities asking questions on a variety of topics, including language.
“Communities are starting to take ownership of this app and create their own questions that would be more useful for their communities,” she said.
Sinclaire noted that communities decide for themselves what topics they want to interview residents.
“We can train community members to use the app, and then they can collect data in their community,” she said.
“Part of the training is showing them how to use the data and what it could be used for. “
Sinclaire, who works as the outreach coordinator for the app, joined the project during its second year of development. She said her job is to bring the app to various communities and show what it can do.
She noted that this is an ongoing project, which they have made more accessible to communities.
“The plan is to have long term relationships with the communities,” said Sinclaire.
She added that the app is important because it gives communities ownership of their own data, as well as the ability to decide what information to collect and how to use it to help the community.
“This app is important because it will allow communities to be able to do this,” said Sinclaire.
-With files from CTV’s Danton Unger.