Cisco and reBOOT Canada Work Together to Bridge the Digital Gap in Indigenous Communities

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As our Community reLAY project continues to roll out, it’s a great time check in and call out the great support from Cisco Canada.

If you’re new to reBOOT Canada’s Community reLAY project, here’s a quick explainer: in the middle of a global pandemic, we connected with several First Nations communities across Turtle Island with a plan to set up a free Wi-Fi hot spot in each location. We needed someone from the community to help launch the project and work through the unique challenges of remoteness and the pandemic alongside the reBOOT team. We did not know what sorts of hurdle we might face, making this a great opportunity for someone new to the work world and eager for experience. The idea was to really work together with communities to address the digital divide and internet access, and to bring employment opportunities, and skills development to Indigenous youth.

So, what do you need in order to provide reliable, robust Wi-Fi in places that go below -40 degrees Celsius? It starts with decent broadband – which can be a challenge in many remote communities, even given the investment through the federal government’s Universal Broadband Fund program. Once you have the broadband, you need enterprise-grade world-class equipment. Enter Cisco Canada.

We worked with volunteer Cisco Canada engineers and the Corporate Affairs team on a Meraki network solution that was easy to install and could even be managed remotely. After submitting our proposal for the Community reLAY project, we waited. 

Great news came within three weeks: Cisco offered to support our program through the unbelievable in-kind donation of new-in-box and complete networking equipment to initially support up to 10 separate communities.

So far, we’ve deployed equipment to 6 communities; 3 provinces and 2 territories representing more than 4700 people. Our team of network analysts in those communities has grown from 1 to 5 in the last year and in the coming months we will expect those numbers double in the next 6 months.  One notable milestone is the activation of a Wi-Fi access point in Ugpi’ganjig (Eel River Bar First Nation) in May. You can read more about that here.

On top of being an awesome corporate donor to his initiative, Cisco Canada has also helped to tell the story too. Check out this pumped up piece that got released earlier this month. Volume alert. Watch out for more stories on our work together as the project progresses. This pilot harnesses the power and scale of the private sector with not-for-profits to deliver lasting social impact. Over the next three years, we’ll connect more communities, equip more youth with in-demand IT skills and drive more employment opportunities in remote locations.  

Along with Cisco Canada, the Community reLAY project is supported by the Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA), Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) – and the amazing community of all reBOOT Canada donors and clients!