Reconciliation for British Columbia’s Indigenous Peoples Through Tech Equality

Indigenous communities across Canada face systemic exclusion from digital and connected technologies; some are stuck with dial-up or no internet access at all. They have been treated as less-than for as long as Canada has existed as a country and even before. Now, Canada seeks to reconcile itself with its First Nations population through a variety of different measures that advocate for tech equality.

Denise Williams is the executive director of the First Nations Technology Council in British Columbia (BC). She works to bring necessary resources to the Indigenous people of BC through collaboration between government agencies, telecom companies, and First Nations-focused not-for-profits. You can read about it here.

Williams told VICE’s Motherboard, “The most exciting thing is the fact that truth and reconciliation is in each of the Ministers’ mandates here in the province, and the way that the tech sector is trying to come to the table as being diverse and solutions-oriented. I think it’s very exciting to be at this intersection, at this time. Words that were spoken to me a few years ago from one of the Chiefs here was that Indigenous people are the original innovators on these territories, having lived here for hundreds of thousands of years learning how to work responsibly with this environment, and how to innovate for the betterment of all.”

Partnering with tech companies involves paid internships for over 1,000 people who complete the 12-week digital skills development program, which teaches skills like web development and beta testing. Everyone who completes the program also receives a laptop that can handle the necessary software. The Council also partners with Animikii Inc. to offer web design services to communities. Williams says one of their biggest challenges is working to provide affordable access to internet for all Indigenous people.

Williams sees an opportunity to reshape the tech sector in BC in a new way. “We want to make sure our partners are ready to welcome Indigenous interns, and they can take advantage of our reconciliation workshops and cultural sensitivity and awareness training… We don’t even know what’s possible.”

Reality Changing Observations:

1. As a country, what can the US learn from Canada’s efforts to reconcile themselves with a past that marginalized certain groups of people?

2. How else do you think tech be used to create greater equality?

3. How can you apply these efforts to our own history of discrimination and move forward as a more just and equitable nation?

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