In the heart of the Cariboo, the Canim Lake Band is celebrating one year of high-speed connectivity thanks to the Pathways project.
This was an initiative that the community staff and leadership pursued for three years. Watching the rest of the world communicate with high-speed Internet while they were using dial up service and satellite services was frustrating. The world of business was happening at a much faster pace outside of the community.
With broadband, this has all changed. Social media has changed the lives of local residents who, for the first time, have access to online resources. Whether it’s simply communicating with friends on Facebook or visiting the health centre to video-conference for medical consultations, there has been a lot of enthusiasm about high-speed Internet arriving in the community.
The band’s construction company, Three Feathers, with the support of Pathways, installed three 30-meter towers to broadcast the Internet signal throughout the community.
Their efforts paid off and the new high-speed service was up and running just in time for Christmas 2011 - connecting the community’s health centre, school, administration offices and homes.
Community members were lined up waiting for coordinator Jesse Archie to arrive at their residence to complete installations, and were soon amazed at the speed of the Internet.
"Before we didn’t know when it was going to be up or down. There was no confidence in the old service. It’s the opposite now,” said Archie, Employment Coordinator with Canim Lake Band who also oversees Information Technology and was the community champion critical to ensuring Canim Lake’s needs were met.
The Eliza Archie Memorial School has purchased tablets for students, and teachers utilize a smart board for accessing the Internet - opening a world of online resources for projects and research. The band is also currently developing an online education program to help prepare adult community members for work throughout the region and across British Columbia.
"They can learn about different career opportunities available right now, and the kind of training they can get online,” said Archie. "This will help get people prepared for applying for jobs or moving on to higher education.”
To help more people get on the Information Highway, the Band, along with the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council, have been donating computers to residents who may not otherwise be able to afford one at home.
"There has been a lot of interest and support, but given the past situation with connectivity there are still many people who don’t have computers,” said Archie. "When we have an extra computer, we hold a draw and donate it to a community member in need.”
One community member who lived off-reserve created a Facebook page for Band members, which has been a tremendous avenue for communication between the off and on-reserve community.
Archie also hopes that having reliable, high-speed broadband service in the community will both encourage and attract entrepreneurs onto the reserve.
"Business people expect the basic tools. We can offer that now. It’s not working against us,” said Archie.
The new internet connection has also had some unexpected benefits. Karen Seraphim, a colleague who worked with Archie came to the community for a visit and was impressed with the strong agriculture program Canim Lake has in place.
The new Internet connection made it easy to keep the discussion flowing, particularly in regards to the community’s 4-H program.
Seraphim recently made a pitch to her local Whole Foods grocery store on Cambie Street in Vancouver after seeing their in-store fundraising initiatives.
During a three month span, shoppers who brought their own bags were given a refund to donate to one of three charities. Canim Lake’s 4-H program was one of those groups to benefit.
"Sometimes it’s the little things, like being able to keep in touch over the Internet, that makes all the difference,” said Archie.