June 21 is National Aboriginal Day, which is an opportunity for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the diverse cultures and outstanding contributions the First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. Here at the SBA, we would like to recognize an important organization that is leading the advancement of digital technologies in First Nations communities throughout British Columbia: the First Nations Technology Council.
Entrepreneurs know that keeping up with technology trends is essential for small business operations. Technology has the power to do everything from raising workplace productivity to improving a company culture. We asked the First Nations Technology Council to tell us about how they support the advancement of technologies in First Nations communities across BC.
Can you describe the First Nations Technology Council? What are the goals of this organization?
The First Nations Technology Council is mandated by the First Nations Summit, BC Assembly of First Nations, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs to lead the advancement of digital technologies in First Nations communities. This includes ensuring that all 203 First Nations communities in BC have access to the Internet and the ability to utilize it to the fullest potential.
Over the past 15 years, our organisation has worked in partnership with over 150 First Nations communities in BC to deliver onsite technology training, grounded in a recognition of the central role it plays in both community priorities and employment and labour market access. The Technology Council has developed an ecosystem supporting the success of Indigenous individuals by building relationships with First Nations communities, industry partners, and training agencies across the province, as well as through a comprehensive understanding of the Technology and Innovation sector in BC.
Our organisation is continuously driven to ensure that we, as Indigenous people, take our rightful place in the technology and innovation sector as the original innovators on these unceded traditional territories.
How do the programs you offer support economic development and innovation?
The technology sector in BC continues to expand, reaching new highs in revenue, employment and overall contribution to the economy. In 2015, employment in this sector reached 101,780 people - more jobs than forestry, mining and oil and gas combined. In BC’s tech sector, talent is a critical resource to drive innovation and growth, with such jobs expected to employ 4.9% of the overall population by 2019. However, industry leaders agree that we currently face a talent deficit that could restrict growth of the technology sector (BC Tech Report Card). It is projected that in BC alone, we will need to fill 20,900 ICT positions over the next 5 years.
Indigenous people are the fastest growing population in Canada with a lower median age (29) than the national average (41), creating a young demographic of innovators. Through the Indigenous Talent Development Strategy, the Technology Council is creating pathways into technology careers while driving forward innovation in BC. We, as Indigenous people, offer a huge opportunity for home-grown talent that will remain in BC and enhance the province’s technology sector. Canada has not yet come to understand the powerful contribution Indigenous people have, and will continue to make, once access to digital and connected technologies is made possible and equitable.
Technology Council Spotlight:
Lydia Prince and Gabe Archie are both graduates of the Technology Council’s Bridging to Technology program, which guides students on the path from entry level certification to advanced training and work experience opportunities in the technology sector. Prince and Archie are using their web development skills to build Goozih, an Indigenous language revitalization app. To learn more about Goozih, you can read profiles on Prince and Archie from The Georgia Straight and Vice.