BC Ministry of Finance
Tobacco and Fuel Tax System
While most of our partnerships are about developing relationships with clients and partners in the Indigenous Community, we also have worked to connect with partners in the technology space. Our biggest partnership was with Apps On Time (AOT) Technologies.
AOT are an integrated solutions specializing technology company based in Lekwungen territory. They’re one of the fastest growing and most skilled technology companies in Canada, and now have a presence in three countries as well as three provinces.
AOT reached out to us to partner for a project the BC Ministry of Finance was releasing an RFP for. It was to digitize the system where status First Nations people bought fuel and tobacco on reserve tax-exempt. The old system relied on an entirely paper-based system, where the retailers would have to do huge amounts of calculations and reports every week and send massive stacks of purchase receipts to the ministry. The ministry would then need to go through each purchase in BC, manually, to ensure everything was correct. Needless to say, this process was hugely time consuming and very inefficient, also resulting in many human-errors along the way.
AOT was hoping to include Indigenous voices in the creation of the system, so that the people affected by the system were represented within the actual creation of the technology. We were happy to join, to give the perspective of those purchasing the items, and to work on a large-scale system. We partnered with them, bidding on the RFP together, and winning it against many other respondents.
Working on the project, we helped design the system and travelled throughout BC to more than 50 retailers, from Vancouver all the way up the Yukon, meeting with stakeholders and retailers to ensure their needs were met. We came up with an elegant tablet solution to check status numbers against the federal database, and then in real time record payments directly to the ministry. This allowed the retailers to not have to worry at all about the reporting, easing their and the ministry’s administrative load, and increasing efficiencies throughout the entire program.
In partnering with AOT, we learned so much about how technology companies were run, what were important things to think about, and learned about new technologies, practices, and policies. AOT learned from us too, about Indigenous issues and perspectives, and how to better work with indigenous businesses and on Indigenous-related projects. In fact, AOT made Truth and Reconciliation Day (September 30th) a paid holiday for the company ahead of the government’s implementation of it.
Since we finished our time on the project, we’ve stayed in touch with AOT about potential future partnering opportunities as well as informally. We receive advice and encouragement from them. Building partnerships within the space helps to inform businesses without much Indigenous experience about Indigenous issues, and we always promote tech businesses get involved in Indigenous spaces, initiatives, and take proactive approaches to reconciliation.