While a large part of the Pathways to Technology project involves the construction of communication lines, technology can also be a tool of transformation. As key a partner in the Pathways project, the First Nations Technology Council (FNTC) is taking the lead on technical capacity building in First Nations communities in BC.
"Technology is not the goal within itself,” said First Nations Technology Council Executive Director Norm Leech. "The Internet is a tool to support the community, and through this project we are helping First Nations restore their traditional culture of health, prosperity and self governance.”
The Pathways to Technology project has set aside $5 million for community capacity building programs to be delivered by the First Nationals Technology Council, a member of the project’s Steering Committee.
The FNTC is taking a collaborative approach to capacity building, working with key regional partners. Building up from Community Technology Plans to Regional ICT Training Plans, the partnerships include Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Societies (ASETS), post-secondary institutions, employers and industry partners who are working together to provide First Nations with opportunities to transform lives. The results will be First Nations citizens with the skills to develop on-line business opportunities; work in new media such as music, video or gaming; seek a career in health informatics; support their Nation’s goals to rebuild sustainable economies or secure one of the thousands of IT positions that will be forthcoming in the near future.
A large part of capacity building is ensuring that all First Nations are equipped with ‘tools of governance’ to manage their social, administrative and land and resources programs. These tools will support the development of strong communities and FNTC’s goal is to ensure that all First Nations in the province get access to these tools.
FNTC is working with its partners to ensure that all First Nations citizens have the skills required to take full advantage of any and all learning opportunities. For some people, a basic computer course is the first step to entering the digital economy. For others, more specialized training like business technology open up new career paths.
The Chiefs who were responsible for creating the FNTC recognized that technical support is a necessity in remote First Nations, and part of the FNTC’s capacity building plan is to ensure that skilled, qualified computer technicians are available to First Nations throughout the province.
"Our dream is to have all 203 First Nations in BC be Fully Integrated Technology (FIT) Communities,” said First Nations Technology Council coordinator Sue Hanley. "High-speed Internet access in these communities is as important as safe roads and clean water. Technology is the road of the 21st century – particularly for remote communities who might have a doctor visit them once a month. While First Nations are at different starting points, most recognize that technology can help them achieve their goals of rebuilding strong, healthy communities.”
Broadband can also play a role in the revitalization of First Nations culture and language. FNTC is working with the First Peoples Heritage, Language and Culture Council through First Voices to support their work using technology as a language teaching tool.
Students are going out on the land with Elders to learn their traditions first hand. They are making maps and developing plans to bring their traditions to life in a way that can support eco-tourism opportunities for people who want to have an authentic First Nations experience. Other youth are learning animation and digital scrapbooking skills to preserve the past and tell their stories to the world. One community is using new media to translate complex treaty and land agreements into a format that all community members can easily understand.
"Today’s technology is giving First Nations the opportunity to tell their stories,” said Hanley. "For decades, history has been imposed on these communities, but now they can share the richness of their history and culture with the world, and rebuild pride in who they are.”
As the Pathways project builds and Internet connections are established across the most remote regions of the province, Pathways to Technology and the First Nations Technology Council will be there to ensure that First Nations have the skills, tools and support they need to thrive.
Posted: May 18, 2011