For many First Nations communities, especially those in rural and remote areas, there is an urgent need for Internet and mobile connectivity, as well as digital-skills development.
“First Nations communities continue to receive the poorest access to internet and mobile connectivity,” said Denise Williams, executive director of the First Nations Technology Council. “Federal and provincial governments are moving on major infrastructure and innovation projects across the country that have the potential to either create equality in Canada, or drastically exacerbate the digital divide, potentially disenfranchising generations of Indigenous people. That’s why the First Nations Technology Council is working in partnership across organizations and governments to ensure our efforts are collaborative and building toward a much brighter, equitable and connected future.”
Closing the digital divide between First Nations communities and others in B.C. is a key priority for the First Nations Technology Council, with digital-skills training forming an integral part of this strategy.
“We have just received multi-year funding that will allow us to offer all 203 communities the access and skills to further economic development locally, while also opening pathways to the technology and innovation sector,” said Williams. “We have worked rigorously to make space in the sector for Indigenous people and map a comprehensive plan that will ensure we not only participate, but lead.”
First established in 2002, the not-for-profit First Nations Technology Council is an expert organization mandated by the First Nations Summit, BC Assembly of First Nations and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs to ensure all 203 First Nations communities in B.C. have equal access to the Internet and the ability to utilize digital technologies to the fullest.
Earlier this year, the B.C. government invested $2.2 million in the Bridging to Technology program. Developed by the council, the program provides Indigenous people with industry-relevant training to enhance digital skills, harness their ability to use technology to access the knowledge economy and foster local opportunities to build stronger regional economies.
Through the program, more than 1,100 Indigenous people will obtain the skills and credentials needed to grow businesses, and participate in a flourishing and diverse technology and innovation sector.
“The technology sector is rapidly-evolving and will continue to shape our province and economy in transformative ways. It will be critical that Indigenous innovation and wisdom on sustainable economic growth and prosperity are at the heart of our shared paradigm,” said Williams. “Bridging to Technology is our first program offering that will mobilize Indigenous people to get involved, and strengthen our presence and voice in the space.”
Recently, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared broadband Internet a basic telecommunications service, announcing an investment of $750 million to support development of broadband infrastructure that will serve 100% of the population at a new network speeds of 50 Mbps download speed and 10 Mbps upload speed. First Nations communities will benefit exponentially from this investment, gaining more affordable and equitable access to this basic service.
“First Nations leadership have made it clear, through a recent resolution, that both Internet access and operating costs for this, now, CRTC-ruled 'basic service' are not adequate and must be resolved in a timely manner,” said Williams. “We have every intention at the First Nations Technology Council to work as collaboratively and as swiftly as possible with government and partners to find innovative solutions that will support us in our mandate to improve the state of connectivity and digital access broadly in British Columbia.”
First Nations Technology Council: www.technologycouncil.ca/