Learn to Code

While access to technology has long been a major obstacle for Native Americans, more opportunities are slowly arising that could allow for more Indigenous youth to pursue a career in web development, coding or AI. Native owned software companies, like Native American Tours, are looking to lead the way.

The Challenge

While there has not been an exhaustive amount of research into the accessibility of careers in technology for Native Americans, it is undeniable that they have been greatly underrepresented in this field for decades.

A recent State of Computer Science Education Study, sponsored by code.org, found that while 89% of Asian students and 82% of white students have access to foundational computer science courses, only 67% of Native Americans can say the same. This makes them the least likely demographic to attend a computer science class.

The study’s insights into specific states with relatively high Native American populations are even more striking.

In Alaska, a state in which Native Americans comprise 30% of the population, a grand total of four (4) Native American students took AP Computer Science exams. In Montana, where Native Americans make up 11% of the state’s population, just two (2) students took AP Computer Science exams. In South Dakota, where 9% of the population is Native American and 12% of the state land is considered Tribal land, not a single Native American student took an AP Computer Science exam.

In all, Native Americans represent approximately 1.7% of the entire US population yet barely register when computer or technology careers are examined. They comprise just 0.4% of those jobs, according to the National Science Foundation.

This is simply unacceptable. Native Americans have long been the most economically underserved demographic in America, with the worst unemployment rate for decades. One out of every three Native Americans live in poverty, many without basic services such as plumbing and electricity.

Changing the Narrative

In order to move forward, we must encourage young Native Americans to embrace a digital future, to seek to found and lead the next wave of cutting edge companies, rather than hope to be employed by them. With more and more Native Americans gaining access to the internet through increased broadband on Tribal lands and other advances, the time is now to look for new opportunities.

We at Native American Tours are constantly growing and looking for new Indigenous talent. But there still are not enough Native coders, developers or engineers. Not nearly enough.

What can (and should) be done

Here’s a few things that Tribal and state governments can do to help more Native Americans take advantage of an increasingly digital economy.

First and foremost, make sure everyone has the ability to access the internet and learn from professionals. Make it a priority for STEM education to be part of the curriculum in all Native schools. Provide computers and equipment for the classroom so anyone can take part, regardless of income.

Same goes for after school programs and activities. After school and summer STEM programs can be a lot of fun, and help young people become more interested in technology and science.

Second, we need more mentorship programs and incubators. Professionals and successful executives can do wonders by simply offering advice, guidance and networking opportunities for young Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Creating tech hubs and computer centers within Native communities is also a great way to increase Indigenous representation in STEM. Organizations like the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), for example, provide valuable resources and community connections.

This is a long way of saying that, for Native American people to fully take advantage of the next economic boom, they must have two things: Access and encouragement. Access to technology and the people and resources that can guide them on how to learn it, and encouragement that hard work and dedication in this field will pay off in the long run.

The next frontier: AI

There simply may not be a better opportunity to achieve extraordinary success in technological fields than there is today. And the reason is relatively simple: Artificial Intelligence (AI).

According to Grand View Research, the AI market size is projected to reach USD $390.9 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of a staggering 46.2%. AI is being adopted across multiple industries, including healthcare, finance, retail, automotive, and manufacturing. This widespread adoption increases the demand for AI professionals with industry-specific knowledge. The US government, and governments around the world for that matter, are investing billions of dollars in AI and quantum computing research over the next decade.

The employment forecast for the AI industry is extremely positive, with strong job growth and increasing demand for skilled professionals. For Indigenous people looking to enter or advance in the AI field, there may never be a better time to do so than right now. And there may never be a better opportunity to create generational wealth for Native populations than what AI presents today.

Look for partnerships in your area

All that’s required for success is opportunity, access and the will to learn. If a future in coding, AI, web development or any other tech-related field is something you may want to look into, seek out opportunities in your area to begin.

Here in Arizona, there are several Native American partnerships with local universities – such as Northern Arizona UniversityArizona State University and the University of Arizona – all of which are a great start. Check universities in your area to see if they offer similar programming.

There are also national non-profit organizations and corporate programs as well. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask around. If you are truly interested in a career in tech, someone will be there to help.

Coming soon from Native American Tours

We at Native American Tours would love to see more Indigenous developers and entrepreneurs involved in the next economic revolution. And as we continue to grow and expand, we would love to have more Native Americans working here as part of our team.

In addition, Native American Tours is proud and excited to announce an upcoming class, taught by NAT developers, on beginning a career in coding. The class will teach lessons learned from decades of collective experience in the field, and will be completely free to attend.

If this is of interest to you or someone you may know, simply fill out the form below and we will be in touch once the details and dates of the class are finalized. Thank you, and we hope to have the opportunity to meet you soon!

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