New report finds that the digital divide hinders Aboriginal communities and the Canadian economy


Entrepreneurship is hard enough, but young indigenous entrepreneurs face an even tougher battle because the systemic digital divide hinders them — and Canada’s entire economy.

This is the main takeaway New report from RBC, After analyzing economic data in the past 18 months and discussing with indigenous stakeholders how to unlock and maximize their economic potential.

The report includes the results of an online survey of 2,000 Indigenous youths who agreed to participate in the bank’s future launch plan, a 10-year, bank-funded $500 million program designed to help young people prepare for future jobs .

According to the report, the growth rate of Canadian aboriginal youth population is four times that of other youth populations in the country, and the rate of aboriginal people creating new businesses is nine times the Canadian average.

Although indigenous entrepreneurs are a large and growing group, an important reason why they are still largely untapped resources is the huge digital divide.

Missed opportunity

This is the first-hand information of Mallory Yawnghwe, the business owner of Edmonton. She grew up in Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Alberta, and never saw the online world as a career opportunity because the digital infrastructure in her community was too poor.

Last year, the federal government pledged to ensure that 98% of the country High-speed Internet can be used within five yearsDespite this commitment, the report states that more than three-quarters of families in indigenous communities do not have it.

This hinders their development in an increasingly online global economy.

Yawnghwe said in an interview: “I come from a protected area with very poor Internet access.” “Until today… In fact, unless you connect to a Wi-Fi source that many people don’t have, you can’t go online.”

It wasn’t until she received a business degree from MacEwan University in Edmonton that she saw the economic potential of digital connectivity.

Fast forward to 2020, and the pandemic has given her an unexpected opportunity to realize her enthusiasm for raising the community.

Using her digital skills, she contacted other indigenous business owners, hoping that they would sell products packaged with other indigenous products, from beauty products to food to household items.

The Indigenous Box was born-and it has grown rapidly. Yawnghwe launched in the spring of 2021 and plans to ship four seasonal boxes every year. She said her customer base has quadrupled and now has thousands.

“I think this is an opportunity for us to truly understand the amazing things that indigenous entrepreneurs are doing,” she said.

Keith Matthew, director of the Tullo Center for Indigenous Economics at Thompson River University in British Columbia, said he has been seeing these effects on himself.

As a former councillor and chief of Simpcw First Nation, about an hour’s drive north of Kamloops, British Columbia’s Matthew said that less than 20 years ago, the community relied on dozens of unreliable and expensive dial-up Internet connections.

In 2007, the local council decided to spend US$175,000 to build fiber optic connections, and Matthew said it was the best investment they had ever made.

Watch | How high-speed internet saves lives during COVID-19:

Keith Matthew, a native of Simpcw near Kamloops, said that high-speed internet has always been the savior of his community, especially during the pandemic. 0:38

“If we don’t have this connection, many young people will not [what] They need to improve their careers,” he said in an interview.

According to the Royal Bank of Canada report, two-thirds of the jobs currently owned by Canadian indigenous workers are in danger of being eliminated or completely changed by technology.

Matthew said remote and rural communities are especially at risk due to infrastructure gaps. “Young people are falling behind [and] It exacerbates the problem of young people leaving. “

Julie Nagam said that when you give people access to digital tools they didn’t have before, you don’t know what they will come up with-and the rewards are usually huge. (Leonard Munckman/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Julie Nagam, director of the Aabijijiwan New Media Lab in Winnipeg, said the advantages of digital connections are huge-and they usually pay off in ways you don’t expect. The recently opened laboratory provides access to basic network tools, such as computers for sound and video editing work, all the way to complex tasks such as 3D printing and computer animation.

When you give someone access to creative digital tools they didn’t have before, “the sky is the limit,” Nagam said. “This gives people the opportunity to dream, think about their potential, the future, and the opportunities they can promote it.

“You don’t know what will happen until people can actually access it,” she said. “It provides people with new opportunities and new potential training and job opportunities.”

But it’s not just skills and infrastructure that can cause problems. The report found that there is a systemic bias at work that deprives indigenous entrepreneurs of one of their secret weapons: confidence.

Although the young people surveyed are generally very confident in their problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and creative skills, they are 13% less likely to claim to have enough digital skills to thrive.

This makes sense to Yawnghwe. She said: “In my life, I have been trying not to be discouraged by racism, discrimination and people who think I am not smart enough to enter these spaces.”

These biased assumptions lead to unequal access to funds from banks. As the Royal Bank of Canada report acknowledges, Indigenous peoples “face structural and systemic obstacles to financial security, from the restrictions on asset ownership under the India Act to the racial prejudice of lenders.”

Capital barriers

A kind 2017 report of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Council It was found that the opportunity for indigenous companies to obtain investment capital was about 10 times less than that of other companies.This means that Aboriginal people’s credit is less than 0.2% of all credit in Canada, even though Almost five percent of the population.

The RBC table shows that Canada’s aboriginal economy is currently worth about 33 billion Canadian dollars, but growing it to a level proportional to its population will triple that number.

For the local community and the Canadian economy as a whole, this is almost $70 billion worth of new funds.

For Yawnghwe, this will be a particularly welcome sight.

“We are born entrepreneurs,” she said. “We are the original supply chain of the entire continent, with a trade network that spans the entire continent before colonization. We are just returning to these spaces.”



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