What is Digital Equity?
The First Nations Technology Council defines digital equity as a state in which every Indigenous person, community and Nation is fully equipped to access and effectively use technology to contribute, thrive, and succeed in today’s digital society while preserving self-determination.
We know digital equity is more than just access to computers and the internet, it is about influence over the trajectory of technology and its impacts on society. Digital equity is a prerequisite for innovation, self-governance, entrepreneurship, education, economic and cultural wellbeing, and nearly all aspects of rights implementation in the digital age.
Why is Digital Equity Important?
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency of accelerating progress towards digital equity — from work to education, to culture and health, our lives and the services we depend on have rapidly shifted online. This transition has made it critical for our communities’ success to have access to devices and software, including the Internet and viable connection speeds.
Technology weaves through nearly every aspect of our lives. Indigenous Peoples must have influence over the design and future of technology and must be at the decision-making table. To date, we have been largely excluded, this has prevented us from equitably engaging with technology or from participating in the technology sector.
Why does Digital Inequity Exist?
The digital inequity experienced by Indigenous Peoples is mostly due to the long legacy of colonial practices and policies that fail to recognize and respect Indigenous rights. It is essential to understand that due to the wide-reach and influence technology has on our lives, digital inequity has the ability to increase the existing socio-economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that persists in every sector from housing, to education, to child welfare, to economic and food security, and more.
How Can We Achieve
There is an urgent need for strategic planning, community leadership, and the development of future-proof solutions that centre Indigenous voices in the design of our collective digital futures. After over a decade of listening to Indigenous Peoples across BC, we know that a strategy that lays out reasonable, actionable, and attainable interventions and actions is necessary to overcome systemic discrimination and the policy and regulatory roadblocks that are preventing digital equity from becoming a reality. The First Nations Technology Council will co-create an Indigenous Digital Equity Strategy as a focused, strategic response that will achieve digital equity and nurture long-term resilience and self-determination for our communities.
The project will take a holistic approach, through broad participation of First Nations, Indigenous organizations, government and other technology ecosystem partners. Together, we will develop short, medium, and long-term recommendations that will result in innovative projects and drive policy changes that address our needs in a meaningful way and benefit all of our communities. Our vision for the 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.
What will the Process look like?
The First Nations Technology Council has identified six areas of immediate intervention where community vision and shared leadership are required, these are:
Connectivity and Infrastructure
Employment and Business Development
Tech and Innovation Leadership
Policy and Legislation
Governance and Self-Determination
The work ahead is to develop recommended investment, policy, and project-based actions within each of these areas.
Once completed, we expect the implementation of the Strategy to be a five-to-ten-year process. Ultimately, significant implementation funds will be required, but the co-creation process is a critical first step in building power and a shared vision around which advocacy for meaningful advancement of digital equity can be achieved.