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Digital Journeys:

A Path Towards Digital Economic Empowerment for Indigenous Youths in Canada

June 2023

Graphic - Digital Journeys: A Path Towards Digital Economic Empowerment for Indigenous Youths in Canada


Graham Dobbs

Graham Dobbs

Senior Economist

Viet Vu

Viet Vu

Manager, Economic Research


Indigenous Friends Association

Funded By

Ontario Trillium Foundation


  • Sarah Emily Cayetuna
  • Nina Rafeek Dow
  • Mariana Rodrigues
  • Keith Gonzales Sujo
  • Vanessa Silano



Bold Idea: Investing in young Indigenous tech workers’ prosperity calls for a multi-faceted policy approach that improves physical access, provides demand-driven training, and indigenizes training initiatives.


In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, the need for a diverse and inclusive workforce has never been more critical. As we stand at the precipice of a new era of innovation, progress and reconciliation, we must ensure that the voices and talents of all communities are represented and valued. It is with great pride and enthusiasm that we, Alejandro Mayoral Baños, Executive Director, and Shane Young, President of the Board of the Indigenous Friends Association, present this foreword on the importance of Indigenous tech workers in shaping the future of our global society.

The Indigenous community has long been a source of immense knowledge, wisdom, and innovation. From the earliest days of human civilization, Indigenous Peoples have demonstrated an innate ability to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity. Today, as we navigate the complexities of the digital age, it is essential that we recognize and harness the unique skills and perspectives that Indigenous tech workers bring to the table. Indigenous tech workers possess a wealth of knowledge and experience that can greatly benefit the technology industry. With a deep understanding of the land, its resources, and the interconnectedness of all living things, Indigenous Peoples have the potential to drive sustainable and responsible innovation in digital tech. Furthermore, their holistic approach to problem-solving and decision-making can provide valuable insights into the development of new technologies and systems that prioritize the well-being of both people and the planet.

As the technology sector continues to grow and evolve, it is crucial that we create opportunities for Indigenous tech workers to contribute their expertise and perspectives. This means not only providing access to education and training but also fostering an inclusive and supportive work environment that values diversity and encourages collaboration. By doing so, we can ensure that the technology industry remains at the forefront of innovation while also promoting social and environmental responsibility.

In our roles as Executive Director and President of the Board of the Indigenous Friends Association, we have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the incredible potential of Indigenous tech talent. Through our various initiatives and programs, we have seen these talented individuals excel in a wide range of roles, from software development and data analysis to project management and digital marketing. Their success serves as a testament to the immense value that Indigenous tech workers can bring to the technology industry and the broader global community.

As we look to the future, it is our hope that this foreword will serve as a call to action for all stakeholders within the technology sector. We must work together to break down the barriers that have historically excluded Indigenous Peoples from participating in the tech industry and create pathways for their full and meaningful inclusion. This will require ongoing collaboration and commitment from all parties, including government, industry, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations.

Together, we can build a more equitable and inclusive technology sector that not only drives innovation and economic growth but also honours and respects the unique contributions of Indigenous communities. By doing so, we will not only be investing in the future success of the technology industry but also in the well being and prosperity of Indigenous communities and the world as a whole.


Alejandro Mayoral Baños
Executive Director & Founder,
Indigenous Friends Association

Shane Young
President of the Board,
Indigenous Friends Association

Executive Summary

Access to digital literacy, skills, and employment leaves Indigenous youth behind in an evolving talent landscape in Canada. This executive summary provides an overview of the intersection of Indigenous youth engagement in technology related employment, and the efforts in providing opportunities and pathways for Indigenous youth in digital and tech-related careers. This work, supported by the Indigenous Friends Association (IFA), aims to support program providers in improving its current offerings. This paper explores technical and digital labour market trends, identifies occupations, skills, and program opportunities, and provides actionable insights on barriers to entry, employment, and skill development in the Indigenous tech labour market.

The report highlights the challenges faced by Indigenous communities in accessing and participating in the technology economy, including physical, social, and economic barriers. It emphasizes the importance of including Indigenous youth in tech-related labour as they constitute Canada’s significant and growing population. Indigenous youth face various barriers, including limited access to broadband internet, digital devices, and mentoring, further widening the socioeconomic gaps in Indigenous communities and regions.

The report recommends addressing these challenges and promoting digital inclusion among Indigenous youth.

Key Findings

  1. Indigenous youth are employed at half the rate of non Indigenous youth in professional, scientific, and technical industries relative to all other service sectors. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this gap to rates seen at the end of the Great Recession.
  2. Highly specialized digital skills such as coding and programming improve labour equity for Indigenous Peoples, particularly Indigenous women.
  3. The need for labour market information (LMI) for Indigenous youth, on-reserve Indigenous communities, and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities continue to exclude adequate support and funding for better access to tech skills, employment opportunities, and professional development.
  4. The need for investment in infrastructure and supports systems to support Indigenous youth in technology-related pathways effectively. The recommendations include providing discounted internet packages for Indigenous communities, low-cost digital devices, and supporting local technology service businesses.
  5. The report recommends incorporating Indigenous voices and self-determination by funding digital literacy programs that empower Indigenous communities. It highlights the use of a two-eyed seeing approach and critical project-based learning to operationalize this approach.

The report also discusses the in-demand skills and occupations relevant to the IFA programming participants, highlighting the INDIGital and IndigiTECH program’s potential in teaching foundational and relevant skill sets. It recommends a further emphasis on crucial concepts in computer engineering, specialization in specific areas of focus, and formalized wraparound support for program participants.

The authors of this report emphasize the urgent need to address Indigenous youth’s barriers to accessing technology related education and employment opportunities. It calls for a multi-faceted policy approach that improves physical access, provides demand-driven training, and indigenizes training initiatives. By investing in Indigenous youth’s tech education and entrepreneurship, Canada can tap into their potential as a valuable source of innovation and contribute to a more inclusive and prosperous future.