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UNB’s McKenna Institute announces $1-million Rural Strategy for Digital Transformation led by River Philip Foundation

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Jun 12, 2024

Category: Press Releases

The McKenna Institute at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) is thrilled to announce the Rural Strategy for Digital Transformation that will accelerate New Brunswick’s digital economy. This strategy is made possible by a $1 million investment led by the River Philip Foundation.

The McKenna Institute’s Rural Strategy for Digital Transformation aims to bridge the rural-urban divide in New Brunswick’s digital economy. The strategy proposes initiatives to increase digital adoption, public engagement and support for New Brunswick’s rural communities and smaller centres through skills development, digitalization initiatives and partnerships.

The strategy also aims to provide best practices to employers, organizations, and individuals on how to thrive in a digital interconnected economy and to lead the digital transformation in their communities.

“Since its founding, the McKenna Institute’s mandate has been to build a robust talent pipeline for all of New Brunswick,” said Hon. Frank McKenna, Founder of the McKenna Institute. “Thanks to this incredible contribution led by the River Philip Foundation, we are able to build our strategy and deliver digital opportunities to our rural communities and smaller centres.”

Over three years, the $1 million investment from the River Philip Foundation will establish the groundwork for the strategy to continue long-term. This will include science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) scholarships for rural areas, support for delivery partners, and community engagement events. The investment marks a significant step forward for the support of rural communities in New Brunswick.

“We are proud to make this investment,” says John Bragg, Founder of the Bragg Group and Board Member of the River Philip Foundation. “We come from humble beginnings and are deeply rooted in rural communities. It has been our mission through the Foundation to make a difference in the lives of rural Maritimers. If we can help provide opportunities that reduce social, economic and civic challenges, then we are accomplishing something important because ultimately it improves quality of life and strengthens our rural communities and their ability to retain and attract people who want to live and work here.”

In addition to the generous commitment from the River Philip Foundation, EY Canada will support the strategy with an in-kind donation as part of their Ripples Program, which connects EY people and their skills, experience and passions to not-for-profits and social enterprises to help deepen their impact on the lives of young people and underserved groups to create an equitable, sustainable future for all. With the help of this contribution, the McKenna Institute will lead a data collection and asset mapping exercise to identify the regional challenges and how technology can contribute to the local economic growth.

Through a series of engagements, the Rural Digital Transformation Strategy will reflect the unique needs of rural New Brunswick and its smaller centres. These engagements will involve a variety of community partners and agencies that will bring in diverse perspectives to build the strategy. This work will result in a comprehensive data set for the digital divide challenges facing New Brunswick communities.

"We are excited to be a part of this strategy that will provide important new opportunities for New Brunswick,” said Paul J. Mazerolle, President and Vice-Chancellor of UNB. “The investment by the River Philip Foundation will have a substantial and significant impact on providing education and support to rural communities.”

The strategy also addresses advocating for investments in internet infrastructure to help promote digital work solutions. Improved connectivity, including 5G and satellite internet, can support remote work; population attraction and retention; promote digital work solutions; and reduce the dependence on physical transportation.

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About the River Philip Foundation

The River Philip Foundation believes every individual should have the opportunity to develop to their full potential and lead a healthy, productive life. The Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for individuals within select communities by supporting initiatives which help resolve social, economic and civic challenges, and make a tangible difference. Established in 2005 by the Bragg Family, the River Philip Foundation provides investment and support to improve the quality of life in rural communities, primarily located in Atlantic Canada. Since inception, over $59 million has been donated to support education, at risk youth, performing arts, and community-based facilities.

About the McKenna Institute

The McKenna Institute fuels economic growth and social progress by advancing the use of digital technologies in New Brunswick. The Institute collaborates to accelerate our talent pipeline, nurture ideas and enable all New Brunswick communities to thrive in a digital world.

About the University of New Brunswick

The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is Canada's oldest English-language university, and New Brunswick’s only national comprehensive university. Founded in 1785, the multi-campus institution has a rich history as well as a dynamic focus on research, innovation, experiential learning and entrepreneurship. UNB welcomes more than 10,000 students from 100 countries to its campuses. With over 100 programs in 14 faculties, UNB helps students acquire the abilities needed to make an impact in their communities.

Photo caption (left to right): Adrienne Oldford, Hon. Frank McKenna, Lee Bragg and Dr. Paul Mazerolle.