B.C.'s technology sector employs more than 100,000 people across more than 10,000 companies (more than oil and gas, forestry, and mining combined), contributing nearly $15 billion annually to the provincial economy.
Yet as of 2016, Indigenous peoples represented less than one per cent of the entire B.C. tech sector, and in 2018 only 1.2 per cent of Canada's tech workers identified as Indigenous. By comparison, Canada's 2016 census counted almost 5 per cent of the overall population as Indigenous, and there are arguments that the official census stats may be lower than the reality.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called on the corporate sector to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework to ensure Indigenous peoples have equitable access to jobs, training and educational opportunities.
The First Nations Technology Council (FNTC), an Indigenous-led not-for-profit organization, decided to address the gross misrepresentation of Indigenous talent in the tech space. On Jan. 22, 2018, the FNTC announced an investment of over $7.1 million from Employment and Social Development Canada, towards the Foundations and Futures in Innovation and Technology (FiiT) program, a digital skills training program aimed at increasing Indigenous representation in B.C.'s rapidly growing tech sector.
Denise Williams, CEO of the FNTC, told National Observer that the council spent years conducting relationship-based research around which communities had access to reliable technologies, including functioning, sustainable Internet access, as well as which skills were needed to engage with the tech sector.
Read more from reporter Emilee Gilpin's story on Indigenous innovation here.