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Why The Time For Indigenous-led Innovation In Tech Is Now, And How To Support It

Posted February 7, 2022 in 
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Since time immemorial, our peoples have used and advanced various types of technology to communicate with each other, access information, and care for our communities and the environment.

In today’s rapidly changing world, society has become increasingly reliant on digital and connected technologies – from education to work, to health and culture, and accessing vital services and programs – technology weaves through nearly every aspect of our lives. But we’ve been excluded. Colonialism, and the systemic barriers it has created, have prevented equitable access to the tools needed to participate and lead in the digital world. 

Now more than ever, we need the wide-reaching influence of Indigenous wisdom on the development and use of technology across society.

Global challenges – such as climate change, the pandemic, and socio-economic issues – are being solved using technology, but it is missing a key complement: the holistic perspectives and deep-rooted knowledge held by our peoples.

Canada’s ICT sector is rapidly growing and is critical to our economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, yet only 1.2% of the Indigenous population in the country are currently employed in ICT jobs nationally.

Our peoples make up 4.9% of the national population, so you might ask why is the number of ICT jobs held by Indigenous innovators falling behind?

The answer can be traced back to a long legacy of colonial practices and policies that fail to recognize and respect the inherent rights of our peoples, which have only served to deepen the digital divide.

Unfortunately, mainstream technology training programs are not Indigenous designed or led and lack the appropriate cultural context, reference, and support to successfully attract retain, and train our peoples to take on roles in the sector.

Combine this with the absence of internet connectivity and accessibility during a time when education has transitioned primarily to online environments – 24% of Indigenous households have reliable connectivity compared to 84% of Canadian households – and it’s easy to see the problem.

De-colonizing curriculums and ensuring our learners are equipped to access and fully use technology are essential to education, entrepreneurship, and economic and cultural wellbeing. This is a key step toward meaningful reconciliation.

With your help, we can increase access to fully-funded digital skills training programs and ensure our people can participate in and meaningfully contribute to Canada’s tech sector and economy. Our new Digital Skills Bursary Fund will increase access to our training programs – at no cost to students – through the Indigenous Innovation Institute, which is an initiative of the First Nations Technology Council. Our goal is to have 350 students complete the program each year, with at least 10% receiving financial support through this fund.

Your support enables us to provide students access to:

  • Curriculum and teaching
  • Wrap-around supports, including access to laptops and software
  • Cultural support through Indigenous Knowledge Keepers
  • Career development support and advice
  • Support from alumni and mentorship network.

If you, like us, believe that technology is not only a positive career option but can support and underpin many aspects of Indigenous self-determination and nationhood, we kindly ask for your financial support. For details and to donate, click here.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of our inaugural sustaining partners, all of which have contributed $25,000 or more to increasing access to digital skills training programs, at the Indigenous Innovation Institute: ShawMetaLab, and the McCall McBain Foundation.