Digital Access for All - helping to bridge the technology divide

Steve Mellings, founder of ADISA, looks at how COVID-19 has helped to illuminate a gap in society where technology for many isn't a given

In these challenging COVID days, many of us are struggling to juggle homeworking and our newfound role as home educators. Those households that are lucky enough to have access to technology and connectivity are able to benefit from online learning, but imagine trying to educate your children with no technology?

This is a predicament affecting more than 1 million households in the UK and, far from being a COVID creation, this digital divide is ever present in society and reflects how a disadvantaged group that needs support has been overlooked.

The 'Digital Access for All' programme (DAFA), run by the Learning Foundation Charity, has been focusing on this area for many years, but the COVID-driven requirement for home learning has drawn widespread focus (and angst) in how developed nations can still have families without access to technology at home.

DAFA is a programme that is NOT just for today, but is tasked with helping to solve this ongoing problem and, in 2020, they partnered with ADISA to create a sustainable programme for businesses to donate redundant technology that can be refurbished and donated to schools or resold to help generate funds to purchase the type of technology those without access need.

The programme has been designed by ADISA to present a route where ANY retired working technology can be processed to leading industry standards, including a service option for data sanitisation and compliance to overcome security concerns. From that point, any infrastructure that is not fit for reuse is recycled appropriately and the rest prepared for reuse.

With businesses having to provide devices for homeworkers, the number of laptops available for donation is very low, which is why this programme accepts ANY infrastructure, with the aim being to generate much-needed funds to give the Learning Foundation the ability to help schools either by sourcing refurbished laptops or tablets, OR to help with connectivity issues.

As Paul Finnis, chief executive of the Learning Foundation, says: "Far from being a luxury item, technology in the home really is essential for all children to achieve their learning objectives not just in the COVID world, but in the normal learning environment. The partnership we have formed with ADISA allows us access to the leading IT asset disposal companies in the UK, which means the programme is not only professional, secure and compliant, but sustainable."

The programme has controls in place as to which type of devices can be supplied to schools to ensure the user experience is a positive one and, in conjunction with Microsoft, is able to ensure there is access to correctly licensed software.

Since a soft launch in January, we have had offers of over 100,000 assets from organisations keen to help and we hope to be able to turn that into direct help for over 25,000 children, BUT we cannot do it alone.

This is a real email received by us last week…..
"I'm not sure if you can help but I have 2 daughters who are home schooling and the laptop we have has just failed. We can't afford to get it fixed and the school says it can't help. Can you help us as I'm so worried that my girls are going to fall behind."

Want to help?
If you are a business that has any redundant equipment, you should consider donating it to the 'Digital Access for All' programme administered by ADISA.
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