By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The information technology sector on Siksika Nation has been enhanced after 25 band members participated in a comprehensive training program, APTN News reports.
“The digital divide is very real for First Nations. It’s something we face everyday,” said David Panther Bone, who works at the IT department for Siksika Health.
This divide was exacerbated by the pandemic, he added.
Panther Bone is involved in a project to introduce fibre optics to enhance the wireless connectivity on reserve and “combat that digital divide,” he said.
The training program was hosted by the Blackfoot Tech Council and IT industry non-profit CompTIA.
Fifteen trainees are in practicums on reserve, while the other 10 are being trained in CompTIA A+, a recognized industry standard for establishing a career in IT.
Richard Sparvier, another participant, told APTN that the program is a great way to connect with other band members who share an understanding of the connectivity challenges on reserve. “It’s a bit more personalized,” he said.
Siksika Nation Chief Nioksskaistamik Ouray Crowfoot said the program “will build the capacity of our Nation to be leaders in present-day information technology and communication, with the aim of creating a healthy digital ecosystem for Siksika Nation and beyond.”
“First Nations people have been innovators in technology for millennia,” Crowfoot said in a news release.
Mark Plunkett, vice president of the CompTIA Tech Career Academy, said the program “gives trainees the opportunity to hone their skills and build confidence that they can work in tech.”
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Blackfoot Tech Council in this important skills building-effort,” Plunkett said.