K-Net staff join BC First Nation IT capacity building think tank

The two day First Nations IT capacity building "think tank" workshop (Sept 29 - 30) was hosted by the First Nations Technology Council in Vancouver, BC. Brian Beaton, K-Net Coordinator participated via video conference from KO's Sioux Lookout office. Susan O'Donnell from the National Research Council also joined the session via video conference from New Brunswick. Bridging and archive services were made available to the gathering by K-Net within Industry Canada's First Nations SchoolNet program.

From a message written by John Webb for workshop participants ...

The provincial BC government has a plan to connect all 203 First Nations in BC to broadband networks over the next couple of years. They realize that just making broadband available is only part of the job. An accompanying capacity building program is now being planned to ensure that the communities have the resources in place to begin to use information and communications technology effectively.

The participants in the workshop reviewed the government's draft plan for capacity building and provided suggestions and directions for the team at the First Nations Education Steering Committee (http://fnesc.bc.ca) for the implementation strategy.

The draft plan that secured the provincial funding included ...

  • Each community taking part in the project will be provided with a Tele-centre consisting of a suite of PCs. (2 to 5 depending on size of community), a scanner and printer. 
  • The band will be asked to provide a building or room for the computers accessible by band members and provide heat, light and washrooms. 
  • A band member will be brought to Vancouver or other provincial centre for, an intense train-the-trainer program.
  • They would then return to their community to become trainer/operator of the tele-centre and in the case of a community where the government is establishing the broadband, a wireless network. 
  • Continuing education and support for both this individual and community members would be supplied using online applications and tools such as Apple iSight video conferencing technology. 
  • The government would pay the community member an annual honorarium to staff the centre on a part time basis for two years. 

Discussions at the workshop included presentations from participants and the use of the open space workshop process to explore topics including:

  • the feasibility of this government plan,
  • what the initial training should consist of,
  • what the next level of training should be,
  • what tools we need to continue to support the Tele-centre and the training needs of the community, and
  • generally any other wisdom that the participants could impart to this project.

Many of us have been talking about the issue of First Nations ICTs for a number of years.  I do not expect to be given a second chance at this and I appreciate greatly the support and council you folks will bring to this project.

John Webb
Executive Director, Communities and External Initiatives
Office of the CIO
Province of British Columbia
tel: (250) 952-0671  fax: (250) 387-1940

First Nations Connectivity Research Project

The Province of BC is committed to bridging the digital divide for First Nations communities to provide access to e-Health, e-Learning, and e-Business opportunities. To accomplish this goal, the 2006 provincial budget included a commitment of $15 million over two years to work with federal partners to provide broadband, last-mile connections, computers and training for First Nations in BC. Providing broadband infrastructure is a high priority for First Nations organizations and several provincial and federal ministries. The School of Communication, at Simon Fraser University, has extensive technology research expertise and is ideally suited to design and conduct an evaluation of the impact of providing First Nations with high speed connectivity. This multi-year project will assist in providing a third-party evaluation of the First Nations Connectivity Project, baseline information on the impact of connectivity to first nations, and identify gaps and issues with connectivity. Please visit our research wiki for more information and to participate in the project.