Ruckify partners with United Way to connect vulnerable people with technology during COVID-19 pandemic
Ruckify is looking for old smartphones, tablets, laptops and webcams, to help connect the most socially-isolated in the community with technology. (CTV News)
OTTAWA -- An Ottawa-based company says it is partnering with the United Way in order to connect socially-isolated and vulnerable people with the technology they need to access support services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More and more bricks-and-mortar locations are closing down during the pandemic, including most recently Service Canada outlets. While many services are online, not everyone has access to a computer or the internet, especially with libraries closed.
"Social service providers are struggling to reach their clients remotely without proper technological equipment. This makes things especially hard for vulnerable people to communicate with their social workers, doctors, counselors, mental health professionals and other services that keep them healthy," Ruckify said on its website.
The company is calling on the public to donate or rent out unused items like tablets, smartphones, webcams and laptops, so they can get into the hands of those who need them.
Cofounder and CEO Steve Cody tells CTV News Ottawa, the United Way approached them for help, after their partnership during the 2019 spring flooding.
"We used our platform to connect people in Constance Bay and elsewhere with pumps and generators," Cody said. "Now, laptops and tablets have replaced pumps and generators."
Cody says the Ruckify platform is a way to allow people to help if they are otherwise lost on how to do so, and it also offers a way to keep everything organized.
Ruckify will provide pickup and delivery of the items. The items will be sanitized when picked up and dropped off, and it will be insured for damages in case something happens.
"During the flooding, we never lost one item," Cody said.
Cody says anyone who is interested in renting out an old computer should make sure to wipe the hard drive first. The company is also asking that people who make use of rented items wipe them completely before returning them, to protect everyone's privacy. Cody says the company will not be wiping hard drives themselves, but have staff on hand who can explain to users how to do it.
The United Way says the rapid changes being made because of COVID-19 are having an impact on not just workers, but volunteers as well.
"For example, our partner, the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region, has had to adapt to working remotely to answer hundreds of calls from residents experiencing mental health challenges as a result of COVID-19. Without proper equipment in their homes, those trained volunteers can’t support residents in this time of need," the United Way said. "This also makes things especially hard for the people struggling with their mental health—particularly during this time of self-isolation—who have come to depend on support from professionals, be it through one-on-one or group counselling sessions."
President and CEO of United Way East Ontario Michael Allen says the Ruckify platform is ideal for the current situation.
"It's tailor-made for circumstances like this," he said. "Money alone won't get us through this. We need volunteers, and partnerships, and innovation."
Allen says the United Way was approached by Ottawa Public Health early on as the pandemic was evolving, to find solutions for people who may need access to technology to work or access critical services remotely. Ruckify had come through during the 2019 flooding and the 2018 tornadoes to connect residents with critically needed items.
It's free to sign up for Ruckify and offer items to rent out, but the company would usually take a ten per cent cut of the rentals; however, the rental fee has been waived for this initiative.
Businesses that have equipment they're not using are also encouraged to participate.
Cody says if people do want to charge for the rentals and make some money, they can, but he's encouraging people not to, out of a sense of community spirit.