Indigenous Digital Equity is much more than 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 peoples have been using and advancing technology since time immemorial. Technology has a unique ability to shape our current and future realities. 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. This has reinforced colonial practices and is inhibiting Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determine their distinct digital destinies.
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.
Indigenous Digital Equity calls for solutions that are designed by our peoples and communities to meet our self-identified needs. The approach must honour our distinctions, policies, practices, regulations, laws, and relationships, and must respect our inherent rights.
After over a decade of listening to Indigenous Peoples across BC, we know that a strategy is urgently needed to overcome systemic discrimination and policy and regulatory roadblocks that are preventing digital equity from becoming a reality.
That’s why, with the support of the Chiefs in BC, we’re in the process of developing an Indigenous Digital Equity Strategy. This comprehensive, coordinated, First Nations-led initiative is rooted in First Nations’ inherent Title, Rights, and Treaty rights.
This work is built on the assertion that BC First Nations have the right to own, control, access, influence, and steward digital technology. Our peoples should influence and benefit from participation in all economic sectors that are impacted by, or that rely on, digital technology. Our peoples must provide leadership in the reformation and development of laws, policies and regulations concerning digital technologies, especially where they impact our rights, title, or interests.
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:
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 Strategy 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 strategy 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 Strategy is community-led and representative of First Nations’ priorities and visions.
The Technology Council has spent a decade listening to communities.
We will continue listening, learning, and reflecting on how technology can support Indigenous self-determination.
Analysis of what we heard revealed the need for an overarching Indigenous Digital Equity Strategy.
We engaged a diverse group of rightsholders and subject matter experts to contribute to the Strategy. Opportunities are planned for fall 2023 for broad community engagement to provide feedback on the draft Strategy.
Knowledge exchange, movement and partnership building. Ensuring different groups know how to support and get involved, and securing implementation funding.
Project implementation, government relations, and monitoring and evaluation of success. Timelines dependent on funding.
Digital equity directly determines one’s ability to:
As self-determining and self-governing Nations, digital equity is key for:
There is an urgent need for strategic planning, community leadership, and the development of future-proof solutions that center Indigenous voices in the design of our collective digital futures. Through the co-creation of the Strategy, we are undertaking work to redefine digital equity from an Indigenous perspective while designing calls to action that will chart our collective path toward achieving Indigenous Digital Equity.