Tech-drive underway for 160 GTA community groups to deliver virtual care in pandemic
TORONTO -- A big push is underway to get communication technology into the hands of social service workers across the Greater Toronto Area.
The partnership between United Way Greater Toronto, the City of Toronto and Ruckify, an online rental marketplace, is asking businesses and people to donate their old technology: unused phones, tablets and laptops that could be put to critical use right now during this crisis.
Ruckify told CTV News Toronto that right now there are 33 community groups looking for 1,000 of those devices immediately. In all, Ruckify said there are 161 organizations registered.
“These devices will provide an immediate lifeline,” Ruckify said a news release issued Wednesday.
Ruckify says that the community groups in need are diverse and work with those experiencing homelessness, survivors of domestic abuse and those struggling with their mental health.
“People, families and neighbourhoods across the GTA are in crisis. Awareness that COVID-19 is putting our community’s most vulnerable people in extremely challenging situations has been widely communicated.”
“Even as restrictions ease we know that the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be felt throughout our community for a long time.”
“The need for technology is growing for things like online counselling, check-ins with isolated seniors and so much more,” said Ruth Crammond, a vice-president with United Way Greater Toronto.
The partnership with United Way and Ruckify is also supporting an initiative by the City of Toronto who has partnered with technology and telecommunications companies to provide free temporary internet access for many vulnerable Torontonians.
“I encourage all businesses and individuals to look at their technology inventory and donate unused or surplus items to provide a critical lifeline for people in need,” said Toronto City Councillor Michael Thompson who chairs Toronto’s Economic and Community Development Committee.
'Can’t even use WiFi': Charities in need of devices
In Mississauga, Eden Food for Change serves 2,000 people a month, about 40 per cent of them children, through it’s learning kitchen and food bank. It also makes Mississauga’s and Oakville’s Meals on Wheels.
Before the pandemic, the charity had high school students make food and people who use its food bank take classes. But to do this with COVID-19 requires a virtual solution.
“Some of our computers are so old that we can’t even use WiFi, we don’t have a hook up for WiFi, try to understand that today,” executive director Peter Costello said.
Costello put a request into the new initiative for three tablets, five laptops, five desktops and five web-cams.
“This older stuff is still new to us and it helps us support the activities our that volunteers are fulfilling within the food bank . It’s a way of bringing our community together,” Costello said.
In the near future, Costello hopes to use donated technology to a create a digital check-in system for members when they collect hampers to future distance with clients, and launch online lessons from the learning kitchen.