Recognizing a growing need for access to technology during COVID-19, United Way Greater Victoria (UWGV) is funding a pilot project that is helping to close the gap between those who benefit from modern technology and those who don’t – something known as the digital divide.
The Digital Divide – Community Technology Help Desk program provides vulnerable community members, seniors and non-profit service providers with a virtual community help desk and a technology lending program.
“COVID-19 has demonstrated that technology is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ it’s a necessity,” said Mark Breslauer, CEO for United Way Greater Victoria. “For those who are vulnerable, the digital divide has grown into a chasm.”
In a survey conducted by UWGV, a third of respondents said they had to take money out of their food budgets to pay for internet costs.
The community help desk can assist people with technical issues, installing software, sending emails or creating documents, among other things. It can be reached Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 236-638-2610 and 250-217-4978.
For the lending library, UWGV is partnering with various community agencies that can borrow technology for specific programs and their participants. Equipment could include computers, phones, tablets and internet connections.
“Increased access to technology can mean a woman in an abusive situation is able to access counselling and/or emergency support on her own private phone,” UWGV said in a release. “A child living in poverty doesn’t have to risk falling further behind because they can’t access online learning, and an isolated senior can have a connection to the outside world.”
The program was established by the Coalition of Neighbourhood Houses with funding from the federal government’s emergency community support fund, granted by UWGV. It is hosted by the Sooke Family Resource Society.
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