Collision conference working to amplify Indigenous voices in the tech space

Collision, the popular tech event is underway in Toronto. As Stella Acquisto reports, event organizers are making an effort to amplify Indigenous voices.

By Stella Acquisto

The annual Collision conference taking place this week in Toronto is working to amplify Indigenous voices and start-ups in the tech space.

Over 120 people have been invited through the Indigenous Attendee Program which aims to take an equitable approach to increasing the representation of Indigenous peoples in the technology.

Community Manager for the Collision Conference, Katie Bolgar, said they have been building their presence within the Indigenous tech space for the past couple of years.

“It’s really important for us to gently question our world that serves Indigenous tech space better,” said Bolgar.

The program, which provides free tickets and bursaries to cover travel and accommodation for up to 10 start-ups, was put in place to remove any barriers that exist for Indigenous groups.

“I think we found we learned that representation was nowhere near what it’s supposed to be. Technically given that Toronto is our home so for us it was very much community-led, lots of conversations, lots of listening to understand what was needed to create a space here,” added Bolgar.

Executive Director and Founder of the Indigenous Friends Association, Alejandro Mayoral, said it’s important to remember that all the resources used in technology are coming from the land.

“[It’s] so important that we bring these communal perspectives in the design of technology but it’s [also] important to bring Indigenous talent to the table to have a space in and to have a say in how we can improve technology,” said Mayoral

One of the attendees, Josh Gray, was born and raised in Guelph, but his family is from the Wahnapitae First Nation, just north of Sudbury. He co-founded Artemis a year ago, which is a data platform that helps small startups organize data sets.

“We have a really good focus on Indigenous-built communities and organizations and helping them take charge of their data, understand it and actually use it for the better of their community,” said Gray.

Gray told CityNews a conference like this amplifies Indigenous voices.

“I think more often than not, we’re not really seen in the tech space, and it hasn’t been the most welcoming but that’s really changed, and Collision has made a point of that.”

“I think as Indigenous members walking the path to really find that confidence [even in] those soft skills that sometimes are lacking in our communities … these types of events really help to connect with others,” added Mayoral.

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