Laptops for All – led by technology entrepreneur David Richards – aims to supply devices and data to people missing out on life opportunities because they lack the equipment to go online.
Six per cent of UK households remain offline, making it difficult to take part in activities including education, employment and healthcare or even stay in touch with friends and family.
The non-profit campaign is calling on employers and individuals to donate laptops, tablets or cash to help close the digital divide in Sheffield and South Yorkshire.
Laptops for All is working with local charities including Age UK, The Food Works and Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care and the local NHS to distribute devices and data according to need.
Donated devices are securely erased before distribution. They are intended solely for education, employment, healthcare or communications purposes.
Cash donations will help sponsor free devices and data for households in the greatest need. Otherwise, refurbished devices will be sold at the low-cost price of £60.
Vodafone has already shown its support by donating 500 SIM cards, each with 20GB data plus unlimited calls and texts each month for a period of six months.
Supporters include Blancco Technology Group, Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Rebuyer, TecSec, The Sheffield College and WANdisco plc.
Mr Richards, founder and CEO of data software company WANdisco, said: “Thanks to the incredible support of our donors, Laptops for Kids was able to source more than 14,000 devices during the worst times of the pandemic to help children keep up with their online classes.
“It is unacceptable that many households are still struggling to get online simply because of their individual circumstances, which means they are unable to do the basic tasks that most of us take for granted in this digital age.
“We urge the private sector, the public sector and anyone else with the resources to join us and donate laptops, tablets or money to our nonprofit campaign and help bring an end to this injustice.
“We are delighted Vodafone has shown its support for our campaign and encourage other donors to come forward and help make this a special Christmas for as many families as possible.”
Star deputy editor Tim Hopkinson said: “Online access is essential for people in today’s world – whether it’s to apply for jobs, get an online hospital appointment or sign up to a course.
"Laptops for All is a brilliant way that people in Sheffield can help those who can’t afford the equipment and connections they need.”
Laptops for Kids started in Sheffield in September 2020 and expanded to other northern towns and cities including Barnsley, Chesterfield and Doncaster, securing 15,000 devices for disadvantaged households.
Morton Bell, managing director of TecSec, said: “Technology is integral to all our social and professional lives – and therefore all people should have the opportunity to access basic IT equipment. We urge our city and regional partners to join us in helping to meet that goal.”
Angela Foulkes, chief executive and principal at The Sheffield College, said: “It’s great we are able to expand this brilliant initiative that aims to close the digital divide and enable more people to access the technology they need. We know the difference this charity scheme has made to families across Sheffield who needed laptops to study and learn at the height of the pandemic.
“We are proud to have played our part in supporting more children and young people in Sheffield to access scores of donated devices with our WANdisco Data Academy students helping to securely erase them under the guidance of IT experts.”
Simon Howatson, chief executive of Rebuyer, said: “Every year, millions of tonnes of damaged, obsolete or unwanted electronic devices are discarded as waste.
“If more companies recycle redundant IT equipment, we can tackle this environmental problem as well as addressing digital poverty at the same time. This is a fantastic initiative to help bridge the digital divide in our communities.”
Adam Maloney, chief financial officer of Blancco, said: “Access to a device to get onto the internet is now a basic necessity and it became even more critical to help individuals stay connected during the pandemic. We were so pleased with the impact of the Laptops for Kids campaign earlier this year, an initiative that was fundamental in enabling children to continue with their education during school closures.
“We are thrilled to once again be partnering with WANdisco on yet another important campaign. The donation of our software will support the secure erasure of donated and refurbished devices to ensure individuals can access the internet and benefit from the same opportunities that we all take for granted.”
Sarah Mulholland, head of policy at the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “Ensuring everyone – no matter their background – has access to digital connectivity is absolutely vital to levelling up education, health and employment outcomes."
Anyone wishing to donate can visit ltfk.co.uk/laptops-for-all