Manitoba – Manitoba
Friday, 21 September 2012, 05:33 PM
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) recently established the Manitoba First Nations Technology Council (MFNTC). This new organization consolidates broadband advocacy work to enhance the voice of Manitoba’s First Nations with regards to technology development in the province. It was formed with the support of two resolutions (2009 and 2012) from the AMC.
Many of Manitoba’s 64 First Nations are considered underserved by Industry Canada’s broadband standards, which define minimum access as a connection with a data transmission speed of at least 1.5 Mbps. Most rural and remote First Nations in Manitoba connect to terrestrial and satellite networks that do not meet this minimum requirement. First Nations that depend on BCN’s satellite network will also be impacted when public funding for the satellite space segment is scheduled to expire in 2018. At this time, there is no commitment to renew this funding agreement.
The MFNTC aims to facilitate broadband systems development to support public services like health, education, and economic development, among other sectors of First Nations society. It provides an organized voice to advocate for high-speed two-way “industrial grade” internet. The council is developing a comprehensive Manitoba First Nations Technology Plan. As well, in 2010-2011, the MFNTC partnered with the University of Winnipeg to offer technical skills and support in First Nations communities. The program was funded by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada’s Aboriginal Skills and Education Program.
The MFNTC is funded by Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNHIB). The organization arose as an outcome of plans to develop a tripartite governance structure for eHealth service delivery in Manitoba. This partnership involves the Province of Manitoba, Health Canada, and Manitoba First Nations, as represented by the AMC. Other partners include federal agencies like Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), Industry Canada, the RCMP, and private sector telecommunications providers like Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS).
The focus of the MFNTC is to advise on the use of information communication technology (ICT) for the positive development of health, education, economy and all sectors of First Nations society. One aspect of this is the AMC eHealth team, who are responsible for establishing an AMC Health Portal that will allow health workers from all First Nations to access necessary information. However, health experts from AMC’s eHealth initiatives lacked technical capacity and expertise in infrastructure and technology development. The founding members solicited their member Tribal Councils to recommend additional members with more broadband development experience.
At present, the Executive Council includes two MFNTC Chiefs (Chief David Crate from Fisher River Cree Nation and Chief Duke Beardy from Tataskweyak (Split Lake) Cree Nation, and members from Broadband Communications North (BCN), Keewatin Tribal Council (KTC), and Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC).
The MFNTC aims to connect all First Nations in the province to high-speed broadband services by 2013. The AMC passed a resolution at the most recent annual general assembly to stand in support of the MFNTC as it seeks funding to development and implement the Manitoba First Nations Technology Plan.