GUELPH -- A program in Guelph is working to bridge the gap in internet and technology access within local communities.

"Get Connected" hosted a phone drive on Friday, collecting used devices and chargers and distributing them to people who need them.

"The digital divide disproportionately impacts those living with domestic violence, living in low income or with homelessness," said project leader Hannah Senitt.

The Guelph Community Health Centre developed the program in partnership with four local organizations, including the Guelph Tool Library.

"When the pandemic hit, a lot of people were cut off from their accessible resources that they have for phones and internet," said Stephanie Clark, the tool library's program coordinator. "The demand has already presented itself quite largely."

Organizers said they've already collected a couple dozen phones and chargers, which will be sent to a data sanitization company to ensure all data is removed before they're given to the public.

They all come with talk and text plans and digital literacy help, offering resources to people who need them.

"Having a connection makes it so you can participate in the community," Senitt said.

Andrew Lappalainen, a masters candidate in the University of Waterloo's electrical and computer engineering program, said the need for technology has never been greater.

"(The pandemic) made our dependency on internet with everything we do very clear," he said. "It's about 20 per cent who are making less than $40,000 are not able to access that."

The program has a goal of collecting 250 recycled devices.

"This is the beginning of a much larger project related to eliminating the digital divide," said Kate Vsetula, director of organizational and community development with the Guelph Community Health Centre.