TOP IMAGE: INDIGital Graduates © Courtesy of Indigenous Friends Association
Indigenous communities are underrepresented in Canada’s tech labour market. Only 2.2 per cent of the Canadian tech workforce is Indigenous, according to a study from Toronto Metropolitan University’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.
Although Indigenous Peoples are the fastest-growing population in Canada, there is a great deal of largely untapped talent and potential among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. Systemic barriers and the exclusion of Indigenous from participation and leadership in the tech industry narrows the perspectives and possibilities to create better and more inclusive digital solutions for diverse societies. Indigenous Friends Association (IFA) strongly believes that there is a need to decolonize the tech sector and champion transformative reconciliation and Indigenous inclusion policies and practices.
Founded in 2015, IFA is an Indigenous-led tech not-for-profit organization that grew from the need for Indigenous youth in an urban and post-secondary setting to access safer digital spaces and connect them to their peers.
A community-based initiative, the IFA directly responds to the Calls to Action No. 7 (i.e., reduce employment and educational gaps) and 66 (i.e., Youth Program) of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, supporting the elimination of the education and employment gaps of Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the IFA is guided and reinforced by the pressing need to address the dark legacy of colonial policies upon Indigenous Peoples, such as the Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the current child welfare system. Thus, the IFA aims to provide Indigenous Peoples and allies with the necessary tools to build partnerships and promote digital projects that place Indigenous understandings at their core.
In order to inspire and support the imagination of Indigenous communities to create and maintain their digital technology to further their autonomy, the IFA has developed three programs that address this gap.
This immersive wellness, tech education, and mentorship program was created through Indigenous worldviews for/by racialized individuals. The INDIGital Program allows participants to heal through technology. The program covers topics of Indigeneity while connecting it with digital technology and aims to teach digital literacy to Indigenous youth all over Turtle Island. Participants develop digital, employable life skills by reconnecting with their community values and culture.
The IndigiMobile Program is a software development initiative designed to imagine, create and deploy digital applications that integrate Indigenous traditional knowledge and values into their design, where privacy and community expressions are central. Some of the successful projects of this program are IndigiFriends and IndigiHealth apps, both of which are available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store.
This community-based research program is inquiring about the barriers of Indigenous youth entering the labour market and transitioning to sustainable career pathways in tech and innovation while being able to deepen their cultural connections and identities. The impact of these programs is that Indigenous Peoples can become creators of digital technologies instead of simple users.
These programs allow for digital skills development among Indigenous Peoples by linking digital spaces with traditional knowledge and worldviews. Your support, whether through donations, volunteering, or spreading awareness, will help reduce the persistent education and employment disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada while engaging in reconciliation through collaborative learning and civic engagement.
Help support Indigenous Friends Association in continuing these programs by donating at indigenousfriends.org/donatenow
The Indigenous Friends Association (IFA) is an Indigenous-led tech not-for-profit organization that ignites the Spirit of Indigenous communities to create, engage and renovate digital technologies through ethical and communal values.