Disparity in a Digital Economy

It was 1 am, and I had a plane to catch. The crickets chirped loudly on my phone, waking me out of deep sleep. I lay there for a moment and then remembered why I had set my alarm for such an ungodly hour. The time was finally here! Today was the day I traveled to a remote community to bring opportunities to Indigenous women who otherwise would not have. I quickly leaped out of bed before I could fall back asleep. I was excited to be traveling back to Onion Lake, Saskatchewan, to orient another group of Indigenous women enrolled in my DEVA 20-Week Online Training Program (DEVA is an acronym for Digital Executive Virtual Assistant). I had a suitcase full of laptops, one for each member of the new cohort I would meet the following day. 

I grabbed my freshly brewed coffee and sat at my computer. What’s this email from the airline? I quickly scanned it. Oh no! It said one or more of my flights were impacted, and if my itinerary had changed, I’d receive another email within three hours with details. I hopped in the shower and then quickly finished packing. I arrived at the airport around 3:30 am and was told that my flight was canceled as my plane didn’t make it in from Calgary due to weather. Oh my gosh! Really? And worse, I would have to wait until Tuesday to catch a connector flight to Lloydminster. This was Thursday. It was bad enough that my return flight was not until Tuesday. I asked for options. The airline staff exhausted all diminutive chances. I really couldn’t postpone the start of the training. Ah, there was an option! I could fly to Edmonton and rent a car and drive 330 km to Onion Lake. Now, I’m sure that would have sounded like a reasonable solution to most. And it was, except for one very significant point of concern. It’s winter in the prairies, which means snow —and lots of it, and I have an intense fear of driving in the snow. I weighed my options and didn’t see an alternative. On the flip side, and even though I was not happy to do this, I was also profoundly grateful that the Universe had provided me with a viable solution. The DEVAs needed to get their laptops. I had to do this. I’m sure this was a test —gulp. Or was this an opportunity?

By the time my plane landed in Edmonton, it was too late to drive. I was definitely not driving in the snow, and in the dark! So I found a hotel and hunkered down for the night, and worried myself to sleep. The following day, I was back at the airport, renting a car at 9 am. I was very nervous and had no trouble saying so out loud because I have been making a conscious effort to share my feelings. A gentleman at the counter overheard me and struck up a conversation. I explained how afraid I was to drive in the snow (probably not a good thing to say out loud as you’re renting a car, in winter, in the Prairies). He mentioned he would be driving in my direction part of the way and would be happy to lead the way if I wanted to follow him (thank you, Universe!).

I followed him for about an hour, and then I could no longer keep up. I suspect he got tired of driving my speed and just told himself I would be fine. At this point, he was just a speck on the horizon, and then he was gone. I pulled my phone out of my purse and noticed it was almost out of juice. How would I make my way to Onion Lake without it? I managed to pull out my charger from my purse and attached it to the phone, but I could not see a USB outlet in the car, and I could not pull over because the shoulders were next to non-existent. The only option (again, thank you, Universe, for providing me with another option) was to plug into my remote charger. While this seemed a great option, it too had little juice left. It would not have enough charge to take me 250 km. But what choice did I have? I needed the GPS on my phone! So I plugged in and prayed for a miracle.

The wind had picked up, creating a blizzard, making it extremely hard to see where the road ended, and the sky started. The snowdrifts completely covered the line separating the opposing traffic in some road sections. Then, one semi-tractor-trailer passed by me, uplifting the snow like large billowing clouds, completely blocking my view, taking me by surprise. I could feel the car start to swerve, and I did my best to steer straight. I took my foot off the gas and felt the car slow down. Then the snowdrift dissipated, and I could see in front of me again. I would say that I could see the road again; however, that’s not entirely true. The road was in front of me, but it was hard to establish my side. The only way to manage this was to look for something on the road or shoulder to help me drive straight and stay on the road. I could feel the tightness of the muscles in my palms because I was white-knuckling the steering wheel. I am not a religious person; however, I believe in a higher power. I prayed a lot that morning!

Four long hours later, I was in Onion Lake, Saskatchewan. I made it unscathed!!! Well, that’s debatable, really, but I made it. My body was relieved, but I had no time to unwind. I was still on high alert and had to quickly unpack and orient a group of women, because I still had to drive to Lloydminster before it got dark, and the weather continued to worsen. It was not my best presentation. As a matter of fact, it was a bit of a mishmash as I did my best to gather my thoughts and composure. I handed out the laptops and the DEVAs’ materials and introduced the program and myself to the ladies.

So, why did I feel compelled to tell this story? I wanted to share my story with you for a couple of important reasons. First, there is much more to this story than what I have shared with you here. It doesn’t end there. I missed flights, had a zero credit card balance in a time where traveling without a credit card is next to impossible, etc. So, yes, my trip to Onion Lake was challenging. However, this was nothing in comparison to what folks in remote communities have to deal with daily, such as high unemployment, a lack of infrastructure, a lack of schools, a lack of services, and medical care.

I bring digital literacy, digital media, and virtual administrative skills to Indigenous women living in remote communities to help them participate in the digital economy and reduce their challenges in an unconducive environment, bringing opportunities, confidence, and belief in themselves. It’s a crying a shame that it has to be this hard. With our privilege, we need to wake up to our responsibility. The power to empower to unblock pathways of possibility is in our hands; we are in the driver’s seat, but asleep at the wheel. Because if we truly were awake and aware, we would be doing something about this disparity.

Please creatively collaborate with me to help make a difference. Together, we can offer HOPE© by Helping Other People Excel. 


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