VICTORIA - National Aboriginal Day is an opportunity to reflect on the past, recognizing First Nations’, Métis and Inuit contributions to Canada. It’s also an opportunity to look to the future and see how Aboriginal communities are applying technology and innovation to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
For example, here in B.C., OneFeather and Sewllkwe are connecting First Nations communities in new and exciting ways.
OneFeather‘s mobile application helps First Nations communities communicate around the province, no matter how remote. Their nation building initiative includes a comprehensive mobile voting and referendum toolkit. The first trial run with the Malahat Nation resulted in a voter participation rate of over 75% - higher than the national average.
With water stewardship being a growing priority for First Nations and non-First Nations alike, Sewllkwe’s web-based interface water tracking system allows for real time data monitoring of water systems. This data can then be shared with health organizations to use and make informed decisions about the health and safety of the water system and its consumers.
Both of these are great examples of First Nations communities using new technology to tackle important issues. In today’s economy, all you need to compete in the global marketplace is a good idea and a connection to the Internet.
Government is working hard with its partners to encourage more successes like OneFeather and Sewllkwe and ensure B.C.’s digital infrastructure can reach everybody, especially First Nations.
Through an ongoing partnership with the federal government, the Province continues to support the Pathways to Technology project. Managed by the All Nations Trust Company, the project has resulted in over 180 of 203 Aboriginal communities getting access to high-speed Internet so far.
British Columbia is finding other ways to connect these communities too. The most recent project is a joint effort between TELUS, BC Hydro, the AllNations Trust Company and the Province to build a fibre-optic data line along highway 4 on Vancouver Island. Once complete next spring, Aboriginal communities along the route will have the opportunity to connect to this infrastructure, opening the door to fast reliable Internet service.
By bringing high-speed Internet to these communities, it opens the door to better access to services, educational resources or other online benefits, giving B.C. the best of both worlds. In the digital age, local entrepreneurs should be able to launch and run their businesses without the need to move away from traditional lands or villages.
There is great strength in fusing cultures with modern tools and it is exciting to see how B.C. First Nations enrich the digital frontier in the same way they’ve contributed to an essential part of building B.C.’s heritage and culture.