The First Nations Technology Council is an Indigenous-led, innovative non-profit that serves all First Nations across BC. They are mandated by First Nations Leadership to provide digital skills training to Indigenous learners, realize digital equity, and ensure First Nations play an active role in leading and shaping the technology sector.
On Monday, the organization launched a labour market study titled Indigenous Leadership in Technology: Understanding Access and Opportunities in BC. The report gathers data never collected before to examine labour market opportunities and constraints, skills development gaps, and perceptions about Indigenous employment and training across all sectors of BC’s economy – both from an Indigenous and industry perspective.
As the Director of Sector Transformation, Lauren Kelly is responsible for overseeing the Technology Council’s work designed to transform and disrupt the status quo of economic sectors including the technology and innovation sector to make space for Indigenous peoples, worldviews and leadership.
Why did the First Nations Technology Council (Technology Council) undertake this Labour Market Study?
LK: There are over 100,000 tech jobs in B.C. and less than 1% of those are held by people who identify as Indigenous. In 2016, during a series of roundtable discussions about tech talent in B.C., the lack of Indigenous representation in the sector was discussed but there wasn’t enough data or information about the barriers creating this exclusion. Further, there wasn’t any data that articulated the barriers from an Indigenous perspective. So, we set out to fill these gaps in labour market data by undertaking a labour market study.
The purpose of this work is to celebrate successes; gather baseline data about the current state of access to the internet for urban, rural, and remote Indigenous Peoples; understand what tech-related skills Indigenous people have and want to learn; and identify and address ongoing, systemic, and deeply embedded barriers created by colonialism and racism.
Why is this research relevant to the needs of Indigenous Peoples living in BC?
LK: While the digital economy in Canada is quickly expanding, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and increased reliance on digital technology, there are few labour market intelligence (LMI) tools that meet the needs of Indigenous communities. This report fills that gap by implementing data collection tools relevant to Indigenous communities and producing information to enable participation opportunities in technology.
Our team took great care to ensure our research was reciprocal, and respectful, and did not replicate the long practice of traditional, extractive research that harms Indigenous Peoples and communities.
By conducting research through the lens of supporting self-determination and self-governance through the knowledge, perspectives, worldviews, and approaches of Indigenous participants, the research is not only relevant to the needs of Indigenous Peoples, but it is also grounded in and truly reflective of their lived experiences and visions. It lays out the actions and recommendations that can change the tech sector, the future of tech, and our economy by increasing Indigenous leadership and influence while centring Indigenous rights and digital equity.
What are some of the major themes uncovered by this study?
Self-determination – Indigenous Peoples, communities, and organizations must be able to decide what the opportunities and priorities for tech look like for themselves. Nation-led projects should shape the “demand” for skills to avoid “gaps” in the future rather than relying on outside organizations that look only at the economics of the labour market.
Digital equity – Digital equity is more than access to the internet and computers; it’s about having influence over the future of tech and weaving Indigenous values, knowledge, and ways of being into it. Facilitating digital equity in Indigenous communities will benefit everyone, as Indigenous Peoples across the province are poised to offer strong leadership and occupy more tech and tech-enables roles.
Root Cause Approach – The public and private sectors must act as allies and active partners and support Indigenous-led plans to address the root causes and systemic, interpersonal, and workplace barriers that colonialism creates.
How will this study be used to increase Indigenous leadership in BC’s tech sector?
LK: This report lays out the necessary actions and resources to increase opportunities in tech and innovation for Indigenous Peoples and communities while respecting Indigenous rights. It also situates itself in the settler-colonial context to illuminate the barriers to Indigenous leadership in tech as defined by Indigenous Peoples and their lived experiences. Our goal is for this research to be widely used by the provincial and federal governments; First Nations Leadership and governments; and key partners across all sectors of BC’s economy to understand how to increase Indigenous leadership in digital society and the economy – and then take action.
How can BC’s tech sector respond to the findings?
LK: Learning is a form of doing in this case. BC’s tech sector cannot be an effective ally in this movement without understanding the context – historic and ongoing colonialism and racism which creates systems that continue to exclude Indigenous Peoples – and how the status quo is maintained daily. This report helps to daylight this and make connections between these forces and the current barriers to help readers begin to understand Indigenous Peoples’ vision for technology and leadership in the sector.
Through this report, businesses in Canada, including companies within the BC’s tech sector, can deepen their understanding of how they might mobilize resources to meaningfully respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 92 for the corporate sector. This will include understanding how businesses built and/or operating on unceded territory continue to benefit from land dispossession and put resources, both financial and time, into tangible forms of reconciliation. This includes redistribution of wealth and investing in Indigenous-led priorities. Companies can also play a vital role in achieving digital equity.
How can governments respond to the findings?
LK: This report provides a range of baseline strategies for governments to assess and wholly align with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Governments need to honestly and methodically evaluate to what degree their mandates, programs, initiatives, funding opportunities, talent strategies, and ways of working respect and uphold UNDRIP.
Indigenous Peoples need to be treated as rightsholders, not stakeholders. Governments should ensure consideration and allocation of resources and funding are meaningfully informed by Indigenous voices, and resources and funding go directly to Indigenous-led organizations and communities.
What is the Technology Council’s vision for the future of Indigenous leadership in BC’s tech sector?
LK: We hope the impact of this report will increase Indigenous participation and leadership in technology for future generations. It is imperative that Indigenous Peoples are involved in the conversations and decisions that will impact them and guide the future of technology. Indigenous Peoples must have the ability to self-determine their digital future. For this to happen, systemic changes must occur. Our hope is that this report will move the needle, create interventions, and help spur much-needed changes.
Who contributed to this study?
LK: This report was made possible by countless contributions of time and knowledge by research participants and advisors. Participants included Indigenous individuals from 120 different Nations residing in B.C., as well as non-Indigenous people working in the technology and tech-enabled sectors, education, economic development, recruitment, and research.
With the guidance of an expert steering committee, the Technology Council led the initiative with a research team comprised of our staff and external organizations including Reciprocal Consulting and Information and Communications Technology Council.
We are also grateful for the support and funding from The Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills.
Lauren Kelly is the Director of Sector Transformation at the First Nations Technology Council.