Aboriginals, IBM and Alberta Government Celebrate Success of Innovative Technology Program

by Clint Buehler

EDMONTON – The success of a unique program that connects Aboriginal communities to a stronger technology future has been celebrated at the end of its first year of operation.

The program was created through an agreement between the Alberta government, IBM, Alberta First Nations and Metis.

A commemorative event at Ben Calf Robe School on June 4th celebrated the one-year anniversary of an ongoing partnership offering technology expertise to First Nations and Métis students in Alberta.

The unique IGN.I.T.E (Igniting Interest in Technology and Engineering) partnership creates new opportunities for Aboriginal people in the IT sector by engaging Aboriginal youth in technology camps. Students ages 8-14 attend IGN.I.T.E camps over three to five days to learn how computers work and explore projects like web page and robotics development. The camps encourage Aboriginal youth to stay in school, to study math and sciences, and to pursue careers in technology. IBM develops and provides the programs and tools.

“Strong, vibrant Aboriginal communities are an important part of our province’s future,” said Alberta Aboriginal Relations Minister Gene Zwozdesky. “The success of this agreement has laid the groundwork for Alberta, IBM and the First Nations and Métis to continue discussing future opportunities that will facilitate Aboriginal participation in the economy.”

The agreement was signed on June 4, 2007 among the provincial government, industry, four First Nations and four Métis representatives. The one-year anniversary event celebrated 26 students who completed the IGN.I.T.E. camp program. The event also acknowledged 24 new community-based trainers who will now deliver the camps to Alberta First Nation and Metis partner communities and marked the anniversary of the first time IBM had entered into a partnership directly with First Nations and Métis people.

“Collaboration generated by agreements such as this one among IBM, Alberta, First Nation and Métis governments can really open the door to opportunities for Aboriginal people” stated Mary Jane Loustel, National Aboriginal Program Executive for IBM. “Today we celebrated youth and community trainers as they completed the IBM IGN.I.T.E camp. That is what the partnership is all about, to ‘ignite’ the interest and build capacity.”

To build technology expertise, the program also develops and trains communities to run IGN.I.T.E camps. Participating communities receive materials and training along with help in surveying existing technology and optimizing its use.