High-speed internet access has long been recognized as fundamental in closing the socio-economic gap between First Nations and other British Columbians. Today, while nearly 95% of First Nations in British Columbia now have a broadband connection into their communities, a lot more work continues to be done to increase bandwidth and provide a reliable and affordable connection to homes and businesses.
With better high-speed internet connectivity, First Nations people benefit from improved health care, online education, economic development programs and job training opportunities. Connectivity is also a key priority for the First Nations Health Authority, part of the Authority’s drive to create a fully integrated First Nations clinical telehealth network.
Technology applications also assist with cultural preservation and revitalization projects, land and resource management, critical infrastructure monitoring and so much more.
This is why Pathways to Technology continues to work with communities to advocate for sustainable technology solutions and improved network capacity.
Pathways to Technology was originally funded through unconditional grants from the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada to All Nations Trust Company. All Nations Trust Company established the Pathway to Technology project to undertake the largest and most complex First Nations connectivity initiative in the country.
Throughout the evolution of the project, Pathways to Technology has adopted and maintained a long-term view of First Nations connectivity in BC. Since receiving the original grants in 2008 and 2009, Pathways to Technology has carefully invested and successfully leveraged the funds to achieve growth and to obtain significant additional funding. Our highly effective management of funds has enabled connectivity objectives to evolve and grow along with technology.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Pathways to Technology project is its comprehensive community consultation. The Pathways team works closely with each participating First Nation through every step of the project’s life cycle – from identifying the most pressing needs in the community for internet connectivity, through to construction and the activation of the high-speed service.
All Nations Trust Company also engages with dozens of organizations to plan and implement the Pathways to Technology project. Public partners include Indigenous Services Canada, the Ministry of Technology, Innovation & Citizens’ Services (Network BC), the Ministry of Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation and the First Nations Health Authority.
Private partners include the First Nations Education Steering Committee, First Nations Emergency Services Society, Indigenous Tourism BC and dozens of telecommunications providers and training agencies, from small local contractors and Indigenous-owned and operated internet service providers to the largest players in the industry.
The Pathways to Technology project is transparent, responsive and inclusive, with community engagement forming the cornerstone of our strategy and work plans. As the project progresses and evolves, we are making real progress to bridge the digital divide across some of the most remote and challenging terrain in the world.
The challenges before us are great, but the rewards continue to be even greater.