New local IT business moves forward tech industry in Utqiagvik

Dayana Jones

When it comes to businesses in Utqagvik, tech is not the first field that comes to mind … just yet. With a new IT business in town, companies can get help with their technology needs locally, and residents considering a career in tech might have a place to find mentorship in the future.

Amiqqaq Anton Edwardson started a new information technology business called Inu-IT about a month ago to help local businesses and organizations with services ranging from cable runs and management, wireless and wired network setups to computer and printer troubleshooting and security camera installations – or, as he put it, providing “pretty much the whole package.”

For now, Edwardson is working with only a couple of clients, but he hopes to grow the business with time and bring more competitive advantage to Utqiagvik and surrounding villages, as well as strengthen the local network of IT professionals.

“With enough growth, I’m hoping to be able to kind of be a hub for local Inupiaq talent,” Edwardson said. “In the IT industry, I always like to believe that there could be more Inupiaq representation, but the venues for learning IT are rather limited, and I know the hands-on training is going to be a really big stepping stone for many Inupiats starting in the industry.”

Since starting Inu-IT, Edwardson has helped the Barrow Mechanical and ACE Hardware Top of the World to optimize their network. For another client, Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation Science LLC, he needed to build a wireless network from the ground up, so that UIC guest researchers have a working WiFi.

Inu-IT is a brand new business, but finding projects has been going smoothly for Edwardson because he has previously worked with some of his clients.

“The first client approached me and I decided that I might as well just start the business now and get it going,” Edwardson said. “I appreciate the support from local businesses and organizations.”

While working on a business degree at the University of Puget Sound, Edwardson also took some coding classes. He realized he was having fun working with technology so after school he went to work with the Information Technology department at the North Slope Borough School District, starting as a system analyst, becoming the IT manager and running the department through the pandemic.

That experience helped Edwardson realize that he was comfortable not only understanding the network design but also negotiating prices with vendors and contractors. That’s when he also saw the benefit of having a local IT business: while some of the nonlocal IT companies might charge a similar price as Inu-IT, travel and lodging drive the expenses up, “so some of the smaller businesses really wouldn’t have much of an opportunity” to hire an outside contractor.

Small local businesses are already finding innovative ways to still access services, and Edwardson wants to be a part of the solution.

“I’m rather really impressed that many people who don’t have any IT backgrounds were able to create their own networks and have it worked for many years,” Edwardson said, “But there’s a lot of room for them to leverage their infrastructure a little bit better.”

Edwardson hopes that his company will help village organizations to improve their network, as well as guide some of their employers and teach them to provide some IT services.

“So it’s not like they would be entirely dependent on me,” he said. “Rather, I’d be able to empower the organizations to better understand and know their networks and utilize them to the fullest capacities.”

Internet in the Arctic is usually expensive and slow, but solving this challenge has been a fun task for Edwardson. The idea is to improve the quality of the internet while maintaining the same speeds and consult clients on what services and capabilities they need and what they can be without.

“I have to find out how to improve their business function without suggesting any extra cost,” he said. “One of the biggest challenges is how to streamline the internal traffic and maintain or limit the external traffic, but not limit their ability to utilize the internet or provide services remotely.”

In the future, Edwardson hopes to create a consortium of local IT experts and businesses to negotiate prices with the larger Internet service providers.

Another idea Edwardson hopes to accomplish in the future is to help larger organizations to have locally stored disaster recovery backups that would act as repositories.

“When I was the manager of the IT department at the college, I noticed that both of my disaster recovery backups were at roughly the same sea level, so if there was something to take out the college, there’s a good chance that the secondary site was also going to be damaged through water damage or what have you,” he said. “I wanted to try to provide another defense for organizations.”

Inu-IT was created for businesses, but Edwardson said he would be happy to help individuals with network setups and troubleshooting as well. He also said he would be open to making Inu-IT a Dell- or HP-certified shop so he can pick up clients’ desktops. Right now, every time a resident or company needs a computer repaired, it gets shipped to Anchorage.

But one of the biggest goals for Edwardson stays strengthening the local IT community. He said he wants to collaborate with local experts and share knowledge, as well as provide career and educational opportunities to people who would come on board as helpdesk techs and beginner professionals down the road.

“The network of IT professionals here is a rather tight-knit group, and I know many of the folks within that network I was actually thinking of contracting,” he said. “Bringing them in, I’m going to be able to supplement their income for their families, but also, I’ll be able to utilize them to build a network of professionals.

“The one things I think is most beautiful about it the IT industry here is that it’s very open for any sharing of information and teaching and giving an understanding. The skills are varied, but with everybody put in together, it always has a perfect blend of competence and consideration.”

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