Kîhipa– Cree for hurry up
During a recent discussion on broadband in Saskatchewan, Milton Tootoosis had one word of advice – Kîhipa (key-pa), which is the Cree word for hurry up.
Milton did not elaborate, but it is worth exploring, why Kîhipa? Why should we hurry up? Why should we find new solutions to providing abundant broadband for every person in Saskatchewan, and with urgency?
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”
Old Chinese proverb
According to the CRTC, Saskatchewan lags the rest of Canada in broadband adoption particularly in First Nations, despite millions spent to address the issue.
For First Nations and many rural communities and farmers, this has had a significant impact: It’s resulted in a widening of the digital divide, a negative socio-economic influence, missed opportunities, increased costs, and a diminished quality of life.
Widening digital divide: The divide between those with and those without access to abundant Internet is growing rapidly with increasing consequences.
Denise Williams, CEO of the British Columbia First Nations Technology Council posted on LinkedIn, “Thousands of Indigenous families don’t have the Internet access required to transition their kids to at-home, online learning. What’s more, they can’t access essential health services through tele-health, track news and information, apply and receive government services. They can’t do basic things like connect with friends and family over Zoom or watch Netflix to pass the time while we’re all stuck inside. These are all things that many people in digitally privileged communities take for granted.” Kîhipa
Missed opportunity: One reason for Kîhipa is missed opportunity. For each day that goes by, we miss opportunities to grow economically, to create jobs, establish and foster business, support tourism, improve health care and enable mental health. We also miss opportunities to enhance education, youth focus and purpose, and most importantly, to promote innovation. Kîhipa
More expensive: Many underserved communities are forced to use comparatively expensive cellular or satellite services. In many cases, these higher costs are paid by those that can least afford the expense. The digital divide is economic as well. Abundant broadband could and should be much more economical and better meet the needs, now and in the future. Kîhipa
Quality of life: The longer it takes to introduce technology that just works, that is easy to use, and that provides and demonstrates high value, the more a segment of our population withdraws and becomes physically disconnected.
Why do we need it, is a common refrain? Many studies show that abundant Internet improves the quality of life for citizens of all ages, but especially for those of advanced age. Kîhipa
To be clear, providing abundant broadband to all citizens is expensive. But the costs to NOT achieve digital parity are far, far greater. But to achieve digital parity will be a daunting task.
It will take bold vision, collaboration, clear strategy, extensive planning, not to mention analysis, engineering, design, procurement, installation, and support, just to get the infrastructure in place. And that’s only step one.
Phase 2 of our Connected Saskatchewan program will look at Digital Adoption – removing barriers, improving utilization, and areas for socio-economic improvement.
Kîhipa – hurry up.