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Exchanging Ideas and Growing Together: 2019 Annual Stakeholders Gathering - April 24, 2019

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April 24 marked the occasion of Pathways to Technology’s 2019 annual gathering of stakeholders. Representatives from All Nations Trust Company and the Pathways team spent the day collaborating and exchanging ideas with representatives from First Nations Emergency Services Society, Write to Read, First Nations Technology Council, First Nations Health Authority, Network BC, the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Indigenous Services Canada, Nuu-Chah-Nulth Economic Development Corporation, Conuma Cable, TELUS, CityWest, and Strathcona Regional District.

Musqueam Elder Shane Pointe opened the session with a welcome and a prayer. During this, attendees held hands with one another and reflected on Pointe’s observation that, in the past, “pathways” were the means by which people would get from the place they were to the place that had something they needed. In today’s world, high-speed internet has become one of these pathways and is critical to the viability of Indigenous communities.

With this metaphor and context in mind, the day’s discussions focussed on refining and improving PTT’s approach to forging pathways via high-speed internet. Nathan Matthews, (former Chief of Simpcw First Nation and current Thompson Rivers University chancellor), presided over the event and introduced Pathways to Technology’s Project Manager, Ruth Williams. Ms. Williams further welcomed the group on ANTCO’s behalf and provided an overview of the Project’s trajectory to-date and the direction it will take moving forward. She highlighted the impact of last summer’s wildfires on Tsilhqot’in communities, noting the Tsilhqot’in perspective that “the fires awakened us” to the need for Indigenous communities to develop and foster self-sufficiency in responding to emergencies. High-speed internet connectivity is essential to that process.

PTT’s Jamie Sterritt then presented a summary of communities connected by PTT since 2010. Next up was a panel discussion by Howard Randell, (Network BC), Donovan Dias, (CityWest), and Victoria Smith (Strathcona Regional District). The panel members talked about opportunities and challenges inherent in the ambitious Connected Coast project. The benefits are innumerable, but the challenges are significant and include issues like affordability, establishing connections to homes and buildings once the fibre backbone is in place, and the time-consuming process of establishing the “passive infrastructure,” (such as land and access agreements and other administrative matters), required to enable the project.

TELUS’ Aurora Sekela and PTT’s Thant Nyo presented next and provided a brief case study on the challenges of connecting Penelakut Island. Lessons learned to include the importance of engaging communities early on to identify and solve logistical issues that can otherwise cause delays, and of streamlining internal processes to maximize efficiency.

After breaking for lunch and conversation, the group reconvened for an afternoon brainstorming session. Nathan Matthews facilitated the conversation and encouraged the exchange of ideas about sustainability, affordability, communication, training, and collaboration. Thoughts were put into words on paper and collected for application in the future of the Pathways Project.
Throughout the day, new connections were made and old ones renewed; perspectives were shared and built upon. The gathering underscored the value of in-person meetings for disseminating current information, providing real-time feedback and assessing and recalibrating strategy as needed going forward.

Posted: August 23, 2019