Our planet is facing unprecedented social and environmental issues, and the space and tech industries have a critical role to play in addressing them. By bringing diverse perspectives to the table, we can help shape innovative solutions that benefit everyone, especially those disproportionately affected by climate change. Edgar Vargas (Tsunki), the first Indigenous Shuar computer systems engineer from the Amazon jungle, believes technology can help solve environmental problems and create a sustainable future. I had the honor of interviewing Edgar after he graduated and was impressed by his passion for working for the collective good of his community in the heart of the Amazon jungle.
"I have been passionate about technology since I was a child," Edgar says. "When I was halfway through high school, I decided to study computer systems. That was a dream. I also knew that technology was and is very important in today's society. It's also a field that very few people study. And in the (Indigenous) Shuar nationality, there are very few people who study technical systems."
Edgar believes that technology is rapidly replacing physical processes and that we need people with technical knowledge to help those who have not yet adapted to the new technological system. "We are in a new century where the physical is disappearing and being replaced by the digital; in the near future, technology will replace many physical things," he explains. "We need people who are tech-savvy to help people who have not yet adapted to the new technological system. There will always be problems with technology, and we as professionals need to be there to help."
Incorporating Indigenous knowledge and values into technology development can lead to innovative solutions to environmental problems. "There are often people who use technology as a distraction, especially among the youth, but with today's technology, you can study and work virtually. So I can work with my community to help them use the Internet and make it a source of income rather than a way out. Also, I can help people use their information wisely because often we are victims of fraud, hacker attacks, identity theft for illegal purposes, and so on." Explains Edgar.
Edgar plans to use his skills to help his community and contribute to a sustainable future. "Since my professional background is in systems engineering and computer science in general, I would like to further specialize in a career in systems engineering if I have the opportunity," he says. "Careers in which I would like to expand my skills include forensic systems, data management, and network administration. In the meantime, I will work personally and collectively for the benefit of my community."
Given the pressing environmental challenges we face today, there is an urgent need to bring Indigenous knowledge into the tech world. Indigenous communities have lived sustainably for thousands of years, and their knowledge can help us find solutions that are in harmony with nature and promote sustainability. Edgar is breaking down barriers and paving the way for a new generation of Indigenous professionals in the space and technology sectors. While we celebrate Edgar's accomplishments, we must also recognize the challenges Indigenous communities face in accessing education and employment opportunities. Supporting and investing in the education and training of Indigenous youth is critical to creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce and ensuring that all voices are heard.
Edgar's story reminds us that we must advocate for a more inclusive space sector where everyone has a seat at the table. Let us continue to celebrate and support pioneers like Edgar and work toward a future where diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our efforts to build a better world.
Edgar Vargas (Tsunki) is a 24-year-old Indigenous Shuar (Ecuadorian Amazon) who speaks fluent Spanish, English, and Shuar. Edgar is a member of the Shuar Tsurakú community, Simon Bolivar municipality, Pastaza canton and province, Republic of Ecuador. From a young age, he has always had the desire to learn and improve himself as well as support his family and community. He is active, creative, and a sports enthusiast. He is also a professional referee in Pastaza Province. He started his secondary school studies in 2016 and received a scholarship from a 501C3-Passion4Christ 777 Foundation Inc, SILVIA VITERI, Mima, and Miriam Mayoral, from the United States of America. On August 26, 2022, he graduated from the Universidad Regional Autónoma de los Andes - UNIANDES in Pastaza Province as the first Indigenous Shuar computer systems engineer.