As the Pathways project spreads across British Columbia, First Nations communities are being connected to high-speed Internet at an ever-growing pace. Much to the delight of local Internet Service Providers, local subscription rates in those connected towns and villages are also soaring. While the industry benchmark for first-year Internet subscription rates ranges between 30-35%, Pathways has seen average rates well in excess of 75% and in some instances approaching 100%.
However, all of that enthusiasm translates into a sharp increase in the demand for computer and Internet-related training in First Nations communities. In response, All Nations Trust Company (ANTCO) is recharging education efforts with a new, stand-alone capacity building initiative, set to launch this summer. The pilot program will span five BC communities, with a long-term goal of reaching every new Internet user that the Pathways team connects.
"Giving our communities access to broadband technology is exciting, but to enable them to capitalize on the opportunities that the Internet provides is a gift which has the potential to improve quality of life for First Nations people across the province,” said Pathways To Technology Project Manager, Ruth Williams. "From language retention projects to e-health initiatives, online education and skill development, these communities are stepping into a realm of truly endless possibilities – if they know how to make the most of them.”
In partnership with Thompson Rivers University (TRU), the project will provide initial training and consultation to new Internet users. Each on-site curriculum will address the fundamentals of computer technology, but will also include special topics which reflect community interests, such as online commerce and social networking.
"Thompson Rivers, with its experience developing and delivering programs and courses tailored to the capacity development needs of First Nations,
is well positioned to lead this initiative,” said Alan Shaver, TRU President.
"We can extend the delivery options of the project through its membership in the Canadian Virtual University, a consortium network of 11 post-secondary institutions delivering a combined 2,000 educational courses.”
Even after the primary training sessions are complete, community members will have access to online support and videoconferences to augment their classroom work.
It’s the latest example of how the Pathways to Technology project is not only helping BC First Nations get online, but also empowering them with the skills to create a better future for their communities.
Posted: October 27, 2014