Development and use of health-related technologies in indigenous communities: Critical review

Louise Jones, Kristen Jacklin, Megan E. O'Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Background: Older Indigenous adults encounter multiple challenges as their age intersects with health inequities. Research suggests that a majority of older Indigenous adults prefer to age in place, and they will need culturally safe assistive technologies to do so. Objective: The aim of this critical review was to examine literature concerning use, adaptation, and development of assistive technologies for health purposes by Indigenous peoples. Methods: Working within Indigenous research methodologies and from a decolonizing approach, searches of peer-reviewed academic and gray literature dated to February 2016 were conducted using keywords related to assistive technology and Indigenous peoples. Sources were reviewed and coded thematically. Results: Of the 34 sources captured, only 2 concerned technology specifically for older Indigenous adults. Studies detailing technology with Indigenous populations of all ages originated primarily from Canada (n=12), Australia (n=10), and the United States (n=9) and were coded to four themes: Meaningful user involvement and community-based processes in development, the digital divide, Indigenous innovation in technology, and health technology needs as holistic and interdependent. Conclusions: A key finding is the necessity of meaningful user involvement in technology development, especially in communities struggling with the digital divide. In spite of, or perhaps because of this divide, Indigenous communities are enthusiastically adapting mobile technologies to suit their needs in creative, culturally specific ways. This enthusiasm and creativity, coupled with the extensive experience many Indigenous communities have with telehealth technologies, presents opportunity for meaningful, culturally safe development processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere256
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2017


  • Aging
  • Canada
  • Indians, North American
  • Needs assessment
  • Self-help devices
  • Telemedicine


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