App helps connect dispersed members of First Nation
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On Pine Creek First Nation, where more than two-thirds of band members live off-reserve, keeping them tuned in can be a challenge.
Recently, however, the community found a way to connect with their membership wherever they are by launching a mobile app a few weeks ago. Upon registering, members have access to news, job postings and event information.
Justin Richard, the director of information technology at Pine Creek First Nation, said hundreds have already signed up.
“We’ve had a really good response to the launch. We’ve signed up probably about three to four hundred members so far,” Richard said.
Pine Creek is near Camperville, more than 400 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
It started when a company called AIVIA Inc. reached out to the reserve about developing one of their Communikit apps.
“The stuff that they had in place for us to use seemed very user-friendly,” Richard said. “If I were ever to disappear as the IT manager, somebody within the organization could probably step in and manage the app themselves with little to no disruption.”
Notifying the community of an event, job posting or announcement through the app takes just four steps. Importantly, the membership and administration have direct control of the app’s data and features.
“We are always looking for new tools and ways we can improve the lives of our band members.”– Chief Derek Nepinak.
“We are always looking for new tools and ways we can improve the lives of our band members; having an app that we can manage ourselves to send out notices for any situation puts us more directly in control of our communications as opposed to using a platform like Facebook or Twitter,” said Chief Derek Nepinak in a news release.
Richard, who lives off-reserve himself, said the First Nation had primarily communicated through Facebook before the app was launched.
“Before I started working with Pine Creek, I had little knowledge of what was actually happening within the community,” Richard said. “I have my phone in my hand a lot of the day, but I’m not on Facebook all the time, so having the app send me notifications and whatnot was really attractive to me.”
Darrell Brertton, who works as a business development specialist for AIVIA Inc., said the company has developed Communikit apps for more than 60 Indigenous communities across the country.
“The purpose of Communikit is to help fill the communication gap between administration and membership. Whether members are on or off-reserve, they can always stay up to date with the latest push notifications in regard to news, events, documents and surveys as well,” Brertton said.
In 2018, AIVIA launched Communikit after hearing from a First Nation about problems communicating with its members.
“Our very first client had over 50 per cent of their registered population living off-reserve,” Brertton said. “A lot of the members were complaining that they didn’t feel involved with the community because they lived off-reserve.”
The Communikit team figured a problem on one reserve was likely also to be an issue for another. So far, the response from their clientele has been nothing but great.
“They love the technology, they love how easy it is to use and they also love how effective it is, especially from an administrator or leader’s point of view,” Brertton said.
Richard said another benefit of the app is that it acts as a virtual meeting place for different generations to connect.
“Instagram is for the younger kids, and Facebook is for the older people, and then the app is kind of universal,” Richard said. “We’re really trying to open up our social media presence to include every single member from Pine Creek.”
While community members of all ages use the apps, Brertton said the younger generation especially benefits.
“Now that they have their nation’s logo and colours (on the app), that makes them feel proud because their nation has taken the step in regards to technology,” Brertton said. “For their nation to get an app tells them a lot about their leaders and about the transparency that their leaders want to have.”
Updated on Monday, July 18, 2022 3:50 PM CDT: App screenshot image changed.