The leader of Glasgow City Council, Cllr Susan Aitken, will join Patrick Harvie MSP today to launch a project that will see five hundred vulnerable people in Glasgow receiving free computers to help them access services and stay connected during the COVID-19 crisis.

Remade Network, a consortium of community organisations, has been awarded a contract by Glasgow City Council to refurbish unwanted IT kit, together with a grant from the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government has purchased the first 500 of the refurbished computers so they can be given away through its digital inclusion programme to those in vulnerable groups such as refugees, low income households and students who have been unable to study because they don’t have a computer.

The project is also backed by Patrick Harvie, Co-leader of the Scottish Greens Party, and Katherine Trebeck, policy & knowledge lead at the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – a Scottish charity campaigning for policies and practice that prioritise human and planetary wellbeing over financial profit. They see the initiative as a long-term ‘circular economy’ model that could help Glasgow to ‘Build Back Better’ after COVID-19.

Sophie Unwin, Director of Remade Network, said: “Life was already difficult for people who don’t have a computer. When you add COVID to this it becomes pretty serious. This project is helping people study, access basic services and not be isolated and at home on their own. Working together with other community groups, and with Glasgow City Council’s support, we’ve been able to develop a growing programme across the city.”

Glasgow City Council Leader Susan Aitken said: “Closing Glasgow’s digital divide is a priority for the council because it can drive real improvements in people’s quality of life – from education, skills and employment through to their health.

“This collaboration with the Remade Network is part of meeting that challenge. It will not only put IT equipment into homes that are currently digitally excluded, but also establish affordable repair services and support new jobs.

“It is an ambitious but practical model that I’m looking forward to seeing scaled up across the city as part of a green recovery that also tackles inequality.”

Patrick Harvie said: “Repairing and reusing have always been activities which bring people together, as well as showing how a sustainable economy can also be a productive one. That’s why I’m pleased to see this new initiative start up in Glasgow, seizing on the desire with our communities to build back better as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Somali Association in Glasgow, which organises sports and activities for the local Somali community, will be one of the first groups to receive a computer.

Mohamed Amber, Chair, at the Somali Association:“These computers will help us teach digital skills to adults, parents and carers who are much less digitally engaged than the younger generation. Learning how to access the internet, make video calls, search for jobs and communicate with their families that are often living in a distant country will help bridge gaps and bring families closer together."

Other recipients include Elaine McAloon, a single Mum whose seven-year old son Maxwell has found it hard to study since April, as they have no working computer at home.

The partners in Remade Network are Govanhill Baths Community Trust, which runs free health and wellbeing workshops and classes for the local community; Repair Café Glasgow, a voluntary organisation that hosts monthly community repair events; Glasgow Tool Library, where members can lend or borrow tools, and The Pram Project, which diverts unwanted prams from landfill by providing them to families in need.

To offer affordable repairs to people in Glasgow, the Remade Network partners are also opening a pop-up shop, ‘The Repair Stop’. It is based at The Deep End arts space at 21 Nithsdale Street in Govanhill.

This will be open from Saturday18th July and operate Monday to Saturday 12-2pm for affordable repairs of textiles, IT and small electrical items. It is also urging all those with unwanted laptops and phones to donate these so they can go to a good home.

Govanhill Baths Community Trust manager Fatima Ugyun said: “COVID-19 has shone a light on inequality and the community sector has pulled together to respond. This is a great partnership for us that will help deliver local people with essential products and services. We are urging all those requiring affordable repairs of textiles, IT and small electrical items to come along to the Deep End.  They should also please bring along all those unwanted laptops and phones that they’ve been clearing out during the lockdown – we’ll make sure they go to a good home.”

Sophie Unwin had the idea for the project after being inspired by living in rural Nepal and creating less than a dustbin of rubbish in a year. She has set up Remade projects in Brixton in 2008, and Edinburgh in 2011. In 2017 she was named UK Social Entrepreneur of the Year for plans to replicate and scale up Remade’s impact through the Remade Network.

Its ambition is for Glasgow is to have affordable repair facilities across the city, creating jobs for local people in repair skills. The long-term goal is to create jobs, reduce inequalities and build a greener future and greener economy - from the ground up.

Bethany Wright
Article by Bethany Wright
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