The Greater London Authority (GLA) is giving away its old technology to a social enterprise, in a bid to help the vulnerable stay connected over the winter lockdown.
The partnership between the GLA and SocialBox.Biz will see an initial 400 items of technology distributed to charities working with London’s elderly, homeless and refugees.
SocialBox.Biz has agreed to securely wipe the data from the old laptops and computers, add open-source software, and distribute them to those in need through their charity partners, which include Age UK London and the Single Homeless Project.
SocialBox.Biz was founded by tech expert Peter Paduh, who came to the UK from the Balkans as a refugee in 1993. Paduh pinpoints a turning point in his life to the moment he received a free computer soon after he arrived. He then went on to study computing at university, founding SocialBox.Biz in 2014.
Peter Paduh, 43, from Camden, and founder of SocialBox.Biz, said:
“We take for granted for our laptops, tablets and smartphones to stay connected with loved ones during the pandemic. For many of us, we can order our shopping and medication online and continue our education. For large parts of the population, they do not have this luxury.
“The pandemic has rammed home the need for digital exclusion to be prioritised immediately. I’m really pleased to work with government and business leaders in London who get how important this is too.”
Theo Blackwell, London’s Chief Digital Officer said:
“Access to a PC or device to get online for those who can’t afford one is a very real need for many vulnerable Londoners, especially during the pandemic. I’m pleased that City Hall can support SocialBox.Biz’s work in this area whilst also reducing our electronic waste.
“The Mayor is committed to improving digital access for Londoners and bridging the digital divide we’ve seen exposed this year. This work includes extra investment in fibre connectivity across the city, digital skills training for those who need it most and access to devices for those in learning or in search of work to ensure no one gets left behind.”
According to Age UK, more than half (51%) of digitally excluded people are over the age of 65.
Abigail Wood, Age UK London CEO, said:
“The laptops from SocialBox.Biz that we’ve been able to distribute have made a huge difference to the lives of older Londoners receiving them, and helped to tackle social isolation during this difficult time.”
SocialBox.Biz will be launching a digital exclusion manifesto in the near future, which it hopes will help to end the practice of companies scrapping their old technology and shipping it around the world, instead of donating it to good causes.
Peter Paduh said:
“Instead of scrapping old technology and shipping it around the world, we could be reducing our carbon footprint and eradicating digital exclusion at the same time. Hopefully others will take the lead of the Mayor of London and start to re-think their IT procurement policies too.”
The social enterprise has worked with charities to hand over more than 1,000 laptops since it began its Laptops for the Homeless and Vulnerable Initiative. Other charity partners include Centrepoint, C4WS Homeless project, the British Red Cross, Routes, Centre 404, The Passage and Housing Justice.