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Indigenous Innovators: Bridging The Digital Divide

August 17, 2017

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Denise Williams, CEO of the First Nations Technology Council, has an in-depth discussion with Jordyn about some of these issues of Internet access and technological literacy in Indigenous Communities - particularly as it relates to job creation. Technology jobs in British Columbia are expanding and will continue to do so as we move further towards a knowledge-based economy and no one understands that better than this episode’s main guest, Denise Williams. Denise Williams is the Executive Director of the First Nations Technology Council. She is Coast Salish from the Cowichan Tribes on Vancouver Island but lives and works in Vancouver as the Executive Director of the FNTC.

Later on in the episode, Lydia Prince, Animikii Web & Communications Strategist talks with Jordyn about her experience as a student in FNTC’s first Bridging to Technology cohort and about why she’s chosen a technological career as an Indigenous young person.

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Animikii’s Indigenous Innovators series features Indigenous leaders, activists, artists and entrepreneurs to better understand the challenges and opportunities Indigenous Peoples face in Canada today.

In 2016, the CRTC declared Internet access a fundamental right for all Canadians. While this decision is undoubtedly an important step forward, this declaration itself doesn’t bring Internet access or acceptable browsing speeds to the thousands of Canadians around the country - particularly in rural and Northern communities - who are waiting for it. The declaration might be a final answer to the question of whether or not all Canadians deserve Internet access, but at the same time, it draws attention to the existing line of questioning around implementation. How can we bring Internet speeds up in isolated Communities? How can we build the infrastructure where it has never been feasible to do so? Is there the political will necessary to bring about these large-scale changes in sparsely populated regions?

Organizations around the country, including the First Nations Technology Council have been fighting for country-wide Internet access for years. Now that the CRTC has brought more legal legitimacy (and thus, political cover) to the arguments that FNTC and others are making on behalf of First Nations Communities, we’re left to wonder what the next step on this path will be. Hopefully we all now agree that Internet access in Canada is a right, but the next step, the next question of how to actually get to country-wide access, is still an open one.

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Jordyn and Denise talk about the basic disparities that exist between rural and urban Communities in terms of access to technology. They talk about how these disparities disproportionately impact Indigenous Communities and some of the negative impacts of these disparities. Denise and Jordyn also get to talk about some of the bright lights and opportunities that are becoming more available in these Communities. For example, they talk about FNTC’s growing program, Bridging to Technology, and get into the reasons why these programs are an important part of - but not a silver bullet for - closing the digital divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in BC.

This episode is hosted by Jordyn Hrenyk and produced and edited by Janet Antone. To learn more about FNTC, head to their website,, or find them on social media.

Guest Bio

DeniseAt the intersection of Indigenous sovereignty, technological advancement and a rapidly expanding technology and innovation economy, in demand of new ideas and new skills, Denise has the privilege of working with Indigenous peoples, governments, academics, technology futurists and social changemakers to map the ecosystem that will result in fair and equitable access to the tools and education required for success in the digital age. Denise leads a theory of change that will not only ensure Indigenous peoples are competitive in BC’s technology and innovation sector, but leading and growing local digital economies.

With a passion for contributing and volunteering in initiatives and organizations that influence real change and the advancement of truth and reconciliation, Denise proudly serves as the President of the Urban Native Youth Association, advisor on innovation to the Governor General of Canada, Status of Women Canada’s Indigenous Women’s Circle, on the board of the First Mile Connectivity Consortium, Vancouver Economic Commission and on the Simon Fraser University Board of Governors as Alumni-in-Order, where she earned her masters degree in business administration in 2015.

Host Bio 

JordynJordyn Hrenyk is a Dean’s List graduate of the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from 2015.  Jordyn’s professional background is in Indigenous entrepreneurship education research and curriculum design; specifically, in supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs in the development and execution of their business and project ideas. Jordyn is Métis and white and is a member of Métis Nation Saskatchewan, Local #7.

August 17, 2017

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