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RAD Solution To Accelerating Digital Equity

RAD is urgently seeking donations of second-hand laptops and funds to meet growing community need

A new initiative has launched which aims to solve one of New Zealand’s most pressing problems – how to ensure that every New Zealander has the tools needed to keep up in today’s digital world.

Recycle A Device (RAD) takes second-hand laptops donated by businesses and households; teaches local high school students to refurbish them; and then gets them into the hands of those who need them the most.

The result is an end-to-end process of device collection, refurbishment, distribution and disposal that enhances digital equity at every level – providing highly sought-after tools, access and skills; while also offering the added environmental benefit of diverting e-waste from landfill by giving these laptops a second life.

Spark Foundation Lead, Kate Thomas, says that as Aotearoa grapples with the on-going effects of Covid-19, the need to shift online for everything from banking to schooling, makes accelerating digital equity essential and more urgent.

“People without a device at home have to use public computers at local libraries or community centres but these are closed during Covid-19 lockdowns when the need for access is more important than ever,” says Thomas.

“Feedback from communities most impacted is that access to appropriate devices is a huge barrier. A mobile device alone isn't enough to support a large household. And when it comes to specific activities like online learning, it’s hard to keep up when there are multiple school-aged children in a household who have to share one laptop.”

How the RAD process works:

Donated devices are received by Spark subsidiary Telegistics, the programme’s ‘data sanitisation and logistics partner’, responsible for erasing data from each device, then asset tagging and distributing these. After a device has been erased, it is transferred to a participating school for refurbishment and finally, on to a community group who then distributes the device to an individual or household in need.

Telegistics CEO, Victoria Mahan, says, “Many kiwis are being left behind in an increasingly digital world, in large part because they can’t afford fit-for-purpose devices that allow them to participate in vital activities like applying for jobs or remote learning. We’re excited to be a part of the solution by partnering with RAD to get devices into the hands of those who need them most.”

Devices are refurbished through a school programme which also provides high school students with sought-after digital skills by teaching them to refurbish devices. As part of this initiative, full training is provided by RAD partner, Remojo Tech, for students and teachers running the refurbishment programme in their schools.

Remojo Tech (a young enterprise scheme founded by students from Aotea College in Porirua) is currently working with three schools - Manurewa High School in Auckland, Christchurch Boys High School and Te Wharekura o Mauao in Tauranga and RAD hopes to increase this to 15 schools by the end of the 2021 school year.

Once devices have been refurbished, they are transferred to students within the school community itself, or to other community organisations for distribution to people in need.

Project Wy is one of a number of community partners that assist RAD with the distribution of donated devices. Project Wy runs a mentoring programme for South Auckland students and their families that provides opportunities for building life-skills, training and leadership development.

Working with a predominantly Pasifika community, Project Wy strives to broaden the experiences and learning opportunities for their students including greater access into STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) fields, which have been identified as future growth industries.

RAD works with Project Wy to train students who are a part of their mentoring programme to refurbish second-hand devices. RAD also provides laptops for distribution to students in need and runs workshops to provide basic digital skills training for the students and their families so they can learn how to use their new devices.

Project Wy Director, Essendon Tuitupou, says, “At Project Wy, we believe that if it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to raise them to be a leader. That’s why we partner with organisations and programmes which collectively help us to make a difference to the lives of the students we support and their families. Our partnership with RAD allows us to provide devices to students and families who need them while also giving our students the opportunity to learn valuable digital skills, building their confidence and interest in STEM, which we believe will set them up to be successful future business and community leaders.”

To meet the growing need for devices, RAD is urgently seeking laptop donations and funding to assist with operational costs. RAD is open to donations of laptops under ten years old with a charger, from large corporations, small-medium businesses or individuals with devices that are longer in use.

To donate to or learn more about RAD, visit https://recycleadevice.nz/

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