Reducing the Digital Divide for First Nations in Saskatchewan

Why is it important to talk about reducing the digital divide? As the world becomes more connected through digital technology, it’s becoming increasingly clear that not everyone has equal access to the internet. This issue is especially prevalent in rural and remote areas of Saskatchewan, where the lack of infrastructure and funding has made it difficult for First Nations communities to access high-speed internet. 

However, internet service providers like Beaver River Broadband, in partnership with  Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) and SaskTel, are making strides to close this digital divide and bring internet access to these communities.

The Current State of Internet Access In Saskatchewan

“The goal of the Federal Government is to connect 98% of Canadians to the internet by 2026.” Says Garth Materie in his “Blue Sky” podcast.  “While that number is close for households overall, only 59.5% in rural and remote areas have the same access. That number drops to just 43% for households on First Nations Reserves. In Saskatchewan, it’s only 10%.” 

Why Is It Important To Reduce The Digital Divide?

Access to high-speed internet has become a basic necessity for everyday life, whether for education, healthcare, or employment. In the modern world, almost everything has moved online, from job applications to grocery shopping. We even date online.

For some individuals in Saskatchewan, internet access is the only way they have to stay connected to their families or loved ones.

Without access to high-speed internet, however, individuals and communities are left behind, unable to take advantage of these opportunities. This is especially true for rural and remote areas in Saskatchewan – especially First Nations Communities – where the digital divide is more pronounced.

Closing the digital divide is important for bridging the gap in social and economic equality. Without access to high-speed internet, individuals and communities are at a disadvantage when it comes to economic growth and development. This lack of access can lead to social isolation, furthering the gap between rural and urban areas.

What Problems Does The Digital Divide Cause?

The digital divide causes a variety of problems, including limited access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities. For example, students in rural and remote areas may not have access to the same resources and technology as their urban counterparts, which can hinder their educational opportunities. 

It is also especially alarming in this world where landlines are replaced with cell phones to have access to 911 services blocked by a lack of wireless connection. Imagine having to leave an injured or sick loved one behind to find wireless cell service to call for help.

The digital divide also creates a gap in economic opportunities, as businesses and individuals without access to high-speed internet are unable to compete in the modern digital economy. This gap can lead to further economic disparities and a lack of development in rural and remote areas.

What Are 4 Reasons For Digital Divide?

There are four main reasons for the digital divide: 

  1. Geography
  2. Income
  3. Education
  4. Age

Rural and remote areas often lack the infrastructure and funding needed for high-speed internet access, which contributes to the disparity. 

Individuals and families with lower incomes may not be able to afford high-speed internet or the necessary technology to access it.

Education and age are also factors in the digital divide. Those with higher levels of education are more likely to have access to high-speed internet, as they may be more aware of the resources available to them. And younger generations having grown up with technology are better able to navigate it than the older generations.

How Beaver River Broadband Is Closing The Gap

Beaver River Broadband, in partnership with Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) and SaskTel, is working to reduce and close the digital divide for First Nations communities in rural Saskatchewan. Their project involves bringing high-speed wireless internet to First Nations Reserves in Saskatchewan, providing access to resources like online education and telemedicine.

This project is especially important for First Nations communities, as they have historically been marginalized and have limited access to economic and social opportunities. By providing high-speed internet access, Beaver River Broadband and SaskTel are working to bridge the gap in social and economic equality for these communities.

“Our focus” says John de Graauw – CEO and President of Beaver River Broadband, “is solving that problem. We just went out to Ministikwan First Nation and they went from no connectivity at all to where they now have reliable 100 mbps internet that’s affordable in every home.”

This is just beginning – Beaver River is making it’s way to all the First Nations. This project is a great example of partnerships working together to address important social issues. Through this partnership, these organizations are working towards a common goal, showcasing the power of collaboration to create positive change.

“It has been an absolute joy to be a part of that solution” says John.

In conclusion, reducing the digital divide is a pressing issue that affects communities in rural and remote areas. However, organizations like Beaver River Broadband in partnership with Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) and SaskTel are working to close this gap and provide access to high-speed internet for First Nations communities in Saskatchewan.