Laptops and tablets donated by the Imperial community have enabled school children to access online teaching and older people to feel less isolated.
Following a call for devices to be donated earlier this year led by the Imperial ICT Department, staff, students, and local residents have donated over 100 laptops and tablets to Ready Tech Go. Ready Tech Go is a not-for-profit organisation set up in 2020 after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help those without access to a device.
The founders of Ready Tech Go were prompted to act while they were volunteering at a local food bank in Hammersmith and Fulham when they met many people who didn’t have access to a digital device or reliable internet connection. They ranged from older people who were feeling isolated and couldn’t stay in touch with their families or access online banking, to families who were having to share a single device amongst multiple siblings.
A right, not a privilege
Although only a few of the volunteers had a tech background, they did have previous experience working in community projects and strongly believed that access to technology should be classified as a right rather than a privilege.
“Just wanted to share with you the report that I got from my kids' school - they are doing great and hand in their work on time. All this happens because of the laptop that you have given to them.” Father of two children
Nikos Souslous, one of the founders of Ready Tech Go, said: “When the pandemic hit, we built new partnerships and collaborations really quickly. It was most exciting to be able to design and deliver our business model so rapidly. By collecting donated laptops and tablets, refurbishing them, and then passing them on we are doing our bit to tackle the digital divide. Providing devices to individuals and households who have been referred to us by other organisations such as schools, charities and local authorities means that we know they are going to those most in need.”
Over the past year, Ready Tech Go has donated devices to over 270 households. Most households are made up of more than one individual so the true number of people who have benefitted from the scheme is much higher. If any of the donated devices received are too old or don’t work, they are recycled in an environmentally friendly manner, thus addressing the growing problem of e-waste.
Mr ML was very happy about the support he received from the What the Tech?! volunteer. He is learning new skills, has connected with local support groups and his family in his home country. The volunteer is doing a great job.” Referrer of device recipient
Leigh Davenport, Head of Service Operations in ICT, was responsible for kick-starting the project. He said: “Imperial prides itself on our links into the local community and we are very grateful to the many members of the College who donated devices to Ready Tech Go.
This was a real team effort, with the ICT Department and What the Tech?! volunteers providing digital training which meant we could support more residents. Even though children are back to school, devices are still needed to help them catch up with their studies and engage in extracurricular activities."
For some older people, ownership of their donated device is the first time they have used a laptop or tablet or gone online. To help these new tech users, Imperial’s What the Tech?! volunteers have provided weekly digital training over the phone to recipients aged over 50 to help them to use their new devices.
A large group of staff and Business School student volunteers have supported local residents throughout the pandemic, providing tech and befriending services over the phone. With the success of the phone buddy scheme, the team hopes to keep this going to support older residents with mobility issues, alongside bringing back their face-to-face sessions at The Invention Rooms and the Edward Woods Estate.
The professional who referred a device recipient said: “Mr ML was very happy about the support he has received from the What the Tech?! volunteer and Ready Tech Go for giving him the tablet device. He is learning new skills and has connected with his family in his home country and local support groups. Please pass my thanks to the volunteer, he is doing a great job.”
"A huge thank you to you and the team for Ahmed’s device! This will really help in his search for suitable housing and help overcome a key barrier for him." Referrer of a homeless individual
With around 1500 children across Hammersmith and Fulham still lacking access to a device, the demand for Ready Tech Go’s services remains high.
Nikos Souslous explains: “We will continue to support children and older people who don’t have a device, but we’ve realised that the need is much greater. The groups of society who don’t have access to a device reach far and wide. We want to do what we can to support these groups too, from homeless people, victims of domestic abuse, refugees and asylum seekers and job seekers.”
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