How Indigenous Leadership and Ownership in Tech Helps Solve the Digital Divide

access to tech

Words by Leah Bartko, Senior Manager, Partnerships & Events at the First Nations Technology Council

The digital divide between Indigenous Peoples and the rest of Canada grows every day due to rapid advancements in technology. We are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to digital technologies, which limits our potential for economic opportunities, education, health and well-being, cultural preservation, land stewardship, and more. For example, significant disparities in internet access persist, particularly in rural and remote First Nations communities. Our latest study, launching soon, found that while 92% of all households in BC have access, only 77% of First Nations households on reserve and Modern Treaty Nation lands have similar access. Advancing digital literacy and fostering Indigenous ownership of technologies is essential for us to fully participate in the digital world we find ourselves in. That’s why we’re working to co-create bright digital futures for Indigenous Peoples in BC by enabling digital equity and transformation.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power, but when it comes to technology, how can we learn about it when we don’t have the tools to access it in the first place? Connected technologies and environments where Indigenous Peoples feel safe and welcomed are essential to bridging the digital divide. The Technology Council responds to this by ensuring our learners have the necessary equipment, funding and support to thrive. Training more than 1,600 Indigenous Peoples to date, our Indigenous-designed digital skills training programs offer a 35% higher completion rate than non-Indigenous programs. Although some of our learners enroll in courses for personal reasons, such as understanding the fundamentals of using a computer to keep in touch with their loved ones, many pursue careers in tech.

British Columbia has the fastest-growing tech sector workforce in the country. Still, Indigenous participation and leadership in the sector are lagging behind, with just 1.8% of these roles held by Indigenous Peoples. Further up the chain, just 0.8% of tech companies include Indigenous representation on their board of directors. This is often the result of systemic barriers rooted in and maintained by colonialism. It’s not all bad news, though. These barriers are slowly being broken down as more companies step into the work of Truth and Reconciliation. For example, our corporate training program, Moving Beyond Inclusion, takes companies and individuals on a journey to learn what meaningful allyship looks like and how they can incorporate it into their lives and work. Companies are connected with top talent from our digital skills training programs as they demonstrate a commitment to creating corporate cultures and environments that make space for Indigenous worldviews, cultures, and thought leadership. We placed four interns in 2023, with two receiving full-time employment. In 2024, we will be placing 20 interns. As you’ve probably noticed, bridging the digital divide is a full-circle movement – from access and connectivity to education and reconciliation to employment and entrepreneurship.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to speak at the Forward Summit on a panel about Indigenous technological empowerment. I was humbled by my accomplished co-panelists and reminded how society – more than ever – needs the wide-reaching influence of Indigenous wisdom on the development and use of technology. Although our work in this regard – as an organization and society as a whole – is just beginning, it’s important to recognize how far we have already come together.

In Spring 2025, the Technology Council will host its first-ever awards Amplify Awards gala to celebrate and honour the outstanding achievements of Indigenous leaders, communities, and their allies in BC’s technology and innovation sector. This event will recognize individuals who have significantly contributed to technological innovation, digital transformation, and the empowerment of Indigenous Peoples through technology. By supporting this event, you are helping bridge the digital divide, supporting Indigenous entrepreneurship, and promoting sustainable technological advancements that can lead to greater economic independence and well-being for Indigenous communities across Canada.

Fill out this form today to learn about Amplify Awards sponsorship opportunities, be the first to know when tickets are available, or showcase your work as an Indigenous technologist, digital artist, or entrepreneur. Learn more about our work at technologycouncil.ca.

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