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Friday, 05 August 2022 13:19

4 non-profits bridging the digital divide for First Nations communities to share more than $750,000 in funding from INCO, supported by Google.org

By Staff Writer
Fiona Madigan, INCO Country Manager in Australia Fiona Madigan, INCO Country Manager in Australia

INCO, a non-profit supporting the growth of Australia’s social enterprise ecosystem, has announced the launch of its first Australian Digitisation Fund designed to empower organisations using technology to redress inequities and improve access to areas of health, education and employment for First Nations communities.

INCO says that technology was already changing the way people connect, learn and work, a trend only accelerated by forced shifts online as a result of the pandemic - and while post-COVID recovery discussions progress, nonprofits working with First Nations communities across Australia are taking the lead to create long-term tech solutions which ensure a sustainable and inclusive pandemic recovery for everyone. 

To support the growth of technology tailored to the needs of First Nations communities, INCO says it has identified four nonprofits with initiatives that demonstrate evidence of reducing structural and cultural inequities.

“These nonprofits will share more than $750,000 in funding, awarded by INCO with support from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm. They will also have access to capacity building workshops, ongoing mentorship from Google employees and technical expertise,” INCO said on Friday.

INCO announced that the organisations improving access to technology and working to create better community outcomes are:

  • IndigiTek (NSW) - a community-designed, community-led robotics and technology education program. As an extension to Indigenous education, the program provides alternate learning models or flexible options for First Nations communities to help build digital skills and literacy and open up new job opportunities in STEM related fields.
  • STARS Foundation (VIC) - an online ‘Alumni Engagement Platform’ to engage and inspire Indigenous girls. This will drive gender equity by enhancing visibility of STARS Alumni to inspire the next generation of First Nations girls and youth and ensure a positive pathway through employment, further education or training.
  • KARI Foundation (NSW) - a mental health app, co-designed with First Nations peoples and community groups. The culturally-appropriate app will use storytelling and in-app wellness indicators to guide access to support services and information to break down barriers and stigma of mental health in Aboriginal communities.
  • Clontarf Foundation (WA) - robotic process automation (RPA) to automate data entry within its Academies. The project will allow its mentors more time to develop and deliver activities focused on increasing First Nations participation and engagement in education geared towards positive employment outcomes as they scale towards supporting more than 16,000 Academy members by 2025.

INCO says that to celebrate the program’s launch, the four organisations were invited to Google's Sydney HQ where they could connect with Google experts and explore how to further the impact of their tech solutions.

“Throughout the pandemic, technology has been a lifeline. The First Australians Digitisation Fund will continue to support innovations and partnerships that bring technology closer to First Nations communities to help shape their future for the better.” notes INCO.

Fiona Madigan, INCO Country Manager in Australia, said: “While digital inclusion is slowly increasing across Australia, a stronger focus is needed on supporting and amplifying on-the-ground organisations that are working to bridge the digital divide with, and for, First Nations communities.This is why the First Australians Digitisation Fund is excited to provide support to our four chosen non-profit organisations. Each has a tech solution that not only meets the needs of First Nations communities across Australia, but helps them to thrive, too.”

Ben Armstrong, IndigiTek Chief Executive Officer said.: “One thing that we've learned is that there are layers to this digital divide that continue to impact further and further up. And, it's critical to change the way that Indigenous peoples and our communities are serviced. So in using technology, and working with young people in the community, our program provides the opportunity and access to learn tech related skills as an extension of Indigenous education. It is co-designed with the community and delivered with that community perspective,”

Andrea Goddard, STARS Foundation Executive Director, said:The Stars Alumni platform will help us to continue to engage our First Nations graduates as they move out of school and transition into their future lives. The platform will provide a readily accessible technological solution to build on relationships based on trust and respect; creating a space where Stars graduates from across Australia can come together to network, share experiences, build knowledge, and receive ongoing support as they navigate the future. We know the education of young women is key to positive change in communities and through our platform we’ll be able to provide ongoing support in a meaningful way.

Cain Slater, KARI Foundation Chief Operating Officer, said: “With our app, we see an opportunity to use culture as an empowerment and belonging tool. If you don't know who you are, it's very hard to understand your place in life as well. We want to design something that can change the rhetoric around mental health, and hopefully inspire FIrst Nations peoples to take up a role in tech as well."

Jane Conder, Clontarf Foundation Chief Financial Officer, said: “By enabling this technology, our mentors can be more focused on kicking the footy with the kids, working with them around classrooms, helping them with homework activities. That's what they should be doing. The less time that we can have them sitting behind a screen and more time interacting with the boys and their families, the greater the impact that they're going to have.”

About INCO

INCO Australia, part of the global INCO Group, is building a new economy that is green, inclusive and resilient. Since our founding, we have invested in and continue to support innovative businesses shaping the economy of tomorrow in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure a better future today and for all.

We believe bottom-up initiatives work best. Innovative responses often come from those closest to the problem, those who live it day in and day out. These are the actionable, on-the-ground innovations which accelerate change.

About Google.org

Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, supports nonprofits that innovate to address humanitarian issues. Google.org was created to provide support for organisations pursuing, experimenting with, and building upon ideas to improve the world, and continues to take an iterative approach to philanthropy today.  Google.org supports pursuits that can have measurable impact on local, regional and global issues, and rallies Google's people in support of these efforts with a singular goal of creating a better world, faster.

At Google.org  we seek out and support organisations who are innovating and using technology to combat the world's biggest challenges.

We help nonprofits accelerate and scale by enabling their vision by rallying our employees and mobilizing their skills to help our grantees realize their projects, and we always aim to give the best of Google to our grantees. That includes both financial resources + Google product and people resources (Cash + Google). Around the world, Google.org  donated over $100 million in grants, $1 billion in technology resources, and employees have contributed 200,000+ hours of volunteering to nonprofits in 2015 alone.

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