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Indigenous Digital Equity Series

Today’s digital world is evolving fast. If our peoples and communities can equitably participate, this evolution can uphold First Nations rights and influence the future of technology. But we’re not there yet.

Downloading An Equitable Digital Future

Indigenous Digital Equity is much more than access to computers and a reliable internet connection. It’s about influencing the future of technology and its impacts on culture and society. In our increasingly digital world, where technology touches nearly every aspect of our lives, Indigenous Peoples must be respected as inherent rightsholders.

Our people have been using and advancing technology since time immemorial. Technology has a unique ability to shape our current and future reality. But the long and ongoing legacy of colonialism in Canada has failed to recognize Indigenous rights and excluded us from equitably participating in digital society. 

First Nations’ rights in BC—including our right to self-determination, self-government, lands and territories, resources, and language and culture—must be respected and upheld. Digital equity is crucial for nearly if not every, aspect of rights implementation.

Rebooting The System

Indigenous Digital Equity calls for solutions designed by our people and communities to meet our self-identified needs. The approach must honour our distinctions, policies, practices, regulations, laws, and relationships and respect our inherent rights.

After over a decade of listening to Indigenous Peoples across BC, we know that Indigenous communities need tools to help them overcome systemic discrimination and regulatory roadblocks that prevent digital equity from becoming a reality.

That’s why, with the support of the Chiefs in BC, we are developing an Indigenous Digital Equity Series of applied research reports and toolkits to examine the current state of Indigenous digital equity in BC to provide leadership and communities with what they need to take effective action. 

This work is built on the assertion that BC First Nations have the right to own, control, access, influence, and steward digital technology. Indigenous Peoples should influence and benefit from participation in all economic sectors that are impacted by or rely on digital technology. Our people must provide leadership in reforming and developing laws, policies and regulations concerning digital technologies, especially where they impact our rights, titles, or interests. The goal of our Digital Equity Series will be to provide some of the tools needed to do that. 

Each of our four mandate areas will be covered in the Digital Equity Series — Connectivity, Digital Skills Development, Information Management, Technical Support and Services. The first of the series on Connectivity will be published in spring 2024.

We have spent the last 18 months co-creating with First Nations, Indigenous organizations, government and other technology ecosystem partners. A Steering Committee of 30+ First Nation individuals and representatives of First Nation Organizations are guiding the work. This Committee oversees the work of the Policy and Planning Circles, where approximately 80+ members have been exploring successes, challenges, and the intersectional nature of digital equity. Currently, the work has navigated several strategic priority areas that include, but are not limited to:

Spectrum, Connectivity and Connectivity Infrastructure
Digital Skills and Digital Literacy
Employment and Business Development
Partnerships and Relationship Capacity-Building

Topics in governance, policy, leadership, and innovation span all priority areas. Together, we will develop short, medium, and long-term recommendations that will result in innovative projects and drive investment and policy changes that address our needs in a meaningful way and benefit all of our communities.

Our vision for the Indigenous Digital Equity Series is to help coordinate a comprehensive and collaborative approach to achieving digital equity, technological advancement, and economic reconciliation for Indigenous Peoples in BC, while stimulating the needed investment for implementation and adoption.

This is a living and evolving process. As we begin to draft the Series and thoughtfully consider all of the wisdom and stories that have been shared with us, we are deeply committed to ensuring the Indigenous Digital Equity Series is community-led and representative of First Nations’ priorities and visions.

Phases of the Indigenous Digital Equity Series

Visioning

2019-2020

Analysis of what we heard from communities revealed the need for tools and resources so Indigenous communities and leaders can determine their priorities and action plans for advancing digital equity.

Learning

2021 onward

We will continue listening, learning, and reflecting on how technology can support Indigenous self-determination.

Engagement

(2021 - 2022)

We engaged a diverse group of rights holders and subject matter experts to help us understand the priorities and concerns of Indigenous people.

Knowledge Exchange

(2024 onward)

Applied research and knowledge exchange on each of the Technology Council’s mandate areas. Developing toolkits to ensure communities and leaders have what they need to advance digital equity in a way that supports their self-determined needs and goals.

Implementation

(2024 - ?)

Project implementation, government relations, and monitoring and evaluation of success. Timelines dependent on funding.

FAQs

What is digital inequity?
Like other social, economic, political and legal inequities, digital inequity has emerged out of Canada’s long legacy of colonial beliefs, policies, practices, laws and regulations that fail to respect Indigenous Peoples’ human rights. Digital inequity has become one of the most prominent forms of inequity today due to its profound ability to shape both our current and future realities.
What is Indigenous digital equity?
The First Nations Technology Council defines Indigenous Digital Equity as a state where Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determine their distinct digital destinies is respected, implemented, and upheld. At present, traditional understandings of digital equity fail to address our inherent rights as distinct peoples.

Indigenous Digital Equity calls for Indigenous-led solutions to meet our self-identified needs; approaches that honour our distinctions; and policies, practices, regulations, laws, and relationships that respect Indigenous Peoples as inherent rightsholders.
Why is there a need to define digital equity from an Indigenous perspective?
In discussions of digital equity, it is most often assumed that Indigenous Peoples are seeking the same rights and experiencing the same challenges as other populations seeking liberation from systemic discrimination. While we may share some common experiences, there is a foundational difference that cannot be overlooked— Indigenous Peoples’ rights are inherent, collective, and internationally recognized. BC First Nations’ rights – our right to self-determination, self-government, lands and territories, resources, and language and culture – must never be diminished within any discussion of digital equity.

For Indigenous Peoples, digital inequity has become a super-determinant of well-being due to the impact it has on our communities. We are undertaking this work to redefine digital equity from an Indigenous perspective in order to ensure the protection of BC First Nations’ collective rights while also safeguarding the individual rights of First Nations people.
Why does digital equity matter?
The digital revolution is transforming economic, social, cultural, legal and political spheres across the globe making it impossible to deny digital technology’s critical role in enabling healthy and resilient societies. More than ever, individuals, communities, and Nations; as well as non-profit, private, and public sectors, rely on digital technology to engage in essential activities. Digital inequity directly denies Indigenous Peoples from exercising and enjoying our individual and collective human rights.
How does digital inequity impact Indigenous peoples?

Digital equity directly determines one’s ability to:

  • access and disseminate information;
  • receive education, health and other social services;
  • maintain social and cultural connections;
  • exercise and protect freedom of speech;
  • maintain food supply chains;
  • create and share art;
  • practice language and culture;
  • work and/or operate businesses;
  • protect and maintain land borders; and
  • continue to engage in land stewardship practices.

As self-determining and self-governing Nations, digital equity is key for:

  • social growth;
  • economic development;
  • cultural wellbeing; and
  • preservation of sovereignty.

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