Closing Technology Gaps & Connecting Communities, an Interview with reBOOT Canada’s Ash Miller

At reBOOT Canada, we work to close technology gaps while connecting  communities. We sat down with our Community Advisor, Ash Miller to discuss his role within reBOOT Canada and the impact that our initiatives have had on Indigenous communities across Canada, and how the donation of one computer can impact an entire family.

reBOOT Canada is committed to supporting Indigenous people by investing in programs that restore dignity, empower, and encourage self-sufficiency to meet their community’s needs. 

Ash joined reBOOT Canada just before he went to University, and he remains an integral part of the team. Ash is a part of the Indigenous community, as he was raised in Biigtigong Nishnaabeg an Ojibway (Anishinaabe) First Nation on the northern shore of Lake Superior, which is formerly referred to as Pic River. Now, he now resides in Thunder Bay, ON working remotely with the reBOOT Canada team. Ash works to determine what the needs of specific Indigenous communities are, and he helps connect them with the resources they need to receive education, while also giving them tools to connect outside their communities. 

Let’s get to know more about Ash, his role and reBOOT Canada and the value he sees in the initiatives that we carry out. 

Tell us about your role at reBOOT Canada? 

Ash “I was originally brought on in an advisor role to connect with community members. I would connect with them over the phone to understand their needs when it came to closing the technology gaps that existed in their communities.” From here, Ash’s role grew within reBOOT Canada, and he now is the reBOOT Canada Lead on the Amdoc’s “Be Without Limits” Initiative. 

What drew you to join the reBOOT Canada team? 

Ash “I grew to love reBOOT Canada. It is a very friendly, welcoming community of people that are wanting to help. I was raised in a community setting, where helping people was a way of life, so working for reBOOT Canada has felt like home.” 

What is it about reBOOT Canada that inspires you? 

Ash “I am inspired by their desire to help people, connecting communities and the interaction that reBOOT Canada has in the community. You can see that reBOOT Canada is actually helping people, and you can see the aid in real time, bringing people together and making a difference.”

What kind of barriers are experienced to those that do not have access to technology and wifi? 

Ash “ I like this question! Nowadays, in 2022, not having access to computers and the internet is a huge barrier to anyone that doesn’t have access to it. During the pandemic, a lot of businesses and schools had been moved online. So with that, everyone has realized that the Internet can be used for more than just entertainment, so without access to it, some people cannot participate in education, or employment more easily.” 

Ash shared a powerful example of how some Indigenous communities are impacted by these tech gaps. 

Ash “A few years ago I visited family in Beauval, Saskatchewan. Beauval  is considered a “modern” community, but there is a small community north of there called Patuanak. Their hardware is very low powered, they have computers, phones and cars but the access to technology is limited because the community is so far north. The roads are very rough, and it is about 4-5 hours from a major city, making it difficult to get the latest technology. They drive old box cars, and have outdated technology so you can see the disparity in real time. They are a very mechanically inclined community, so they are very creative in using what they have to work for them, and they are proud of what they have, but imagine what they could do if they had access to more modern technology.” 

Share more about the reBOOT Canada and Amodcs “Be Without Limits” initiative, and what your role is. 

Ash “I am the Campaign Lead. With this initiative I reach out to communities to get information on where the technology gaps are, and then disseminate that information while managing the people on the project. The “Be Without Limits” initiative is a play on the fact that we should not be limited by technology, why should people that don’t have access to tech be condemned to not have it? We need to give access to technology, and supply communities with better computers, and wifi – they deserve it.” 

Why do you feel that this initiative is important? 

Ash “It is important to give people the ability to access the internet and obtain opportunities that they should have access to without barriers like travel, or outdated equipment. This access helps connect people, which is one thing that people in some of these smaller communities are cut off from. Some of these communities are cut off from what is happening in the world, or even their own community because they don’t have access to practical applications. This initiative brings people together and creates connectivity.” 

How do reBOOT Canada’s partnerships with Miziwe Biik in Toronto, and Economic Development offices in communities help Indigenous residents in those communities? What opportunities do they provide? 

The Economic Development Offices in certain communities are the hub of access and resources for many people that reside here. Ash explains that “I act as an advocate for the community to get internet access.” 

In Ash’s community, “they have a wifi router, and it is set up in the recreational department building, and it is there to give people access to free wifi. That initiative would not have been possible without the partnership with the economic development in the community. reBOOT Canada got the device, and is currently paying for the internet service.” Ash further explains “This access to the internet gives people opportunity. They are able to jump on the internet to do research, complete homework, and access resources. They are able to get work done, and be productive.” 

In 2019, reBOOT Canada has partnered with 6 remote Indigenous communities across Canada to provide the deployment and maintenance of a free Wi-Fi hotspot. What is the impact on the community? 

Ash “I was a part of this initiative. It was all about granting people access so that people could use wifi for work, and homework etc. In my community, it was set up at the Youth Recreation Centre, which created more opportunities like resume workshops for young people. Having access to wifi and the internet, brings about opportunity.” 

What difference can the donation of just one computer make to an Indigenous family of four people? 

Ash “The donation of one computer can help with education. It can educate a child, a teenager, and a parent and grant them the access they deserve. It can get people connected to the things they need to progress in society. One donation can change the lives of an entire family.” 

As a final thought, Ash shared that “we have people call back to thank us, and share how the computer has changed how their family, child, or even the parents themselves work.” 

For Ash, receiving these phone calls is re-assuming. These calls confirm that the work he, and the reBOOT Canada team are doing, is making a difference in closing technology gaps and connecting communities. 
If you are looking to help close the technology gap, consider making a donation.