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Cllr Costigan and Cllr Donnelly hand over devices to Reconome

Bridging the digital divide

Some of the borough’s most disadvantaged residents will be gifted laptops to help them, thanks to a new re-use and recycling scheme by Ealing Council.

To allow the council to offer more services online, more than 1,000 staff devices have been replaced with upgraded equipment as part of the Refresh Project, and the council is providing the old machines to environmental business and digital inclusion charities, Reconome and Good Things Foundation.

The old computers are serviced and refurbished, with all files erased, before then being distributed to people in need. Device donations are distributed across the Good Things Foundation’s National Digital Inclusion Network.

The network is made up of thousands of organisations helping people in their own local communities to get affordable and safe access to the internet. There are 5 hubs located in Ealing, 2 of which have benefited from the council’s donations so far.

The programme also provides training and support for the new owners.

Although the number of UK adults getting online is increasing all the time, there are still many people who don’t access the internet and can feel left behind as a result.

Digital exclusion disproportionately affects older and disabled people, as well as those on low incomes who lack the financial power to get online.

Councillor Deirdre Costigan, deputy leader and cabinet member for climate action, and Councillor Steve Donnelly, cabinet member for inclusive economy, helped to redistribute the laptops to Reconome, a social benefit business on behalf of the Good Things Foundation.

Councillor Donnelly said: “Bridging the digital divide helps tackle social isolation and improve people’s chances to fully take part in the community. This project helps some of our most marginalised residents to get online, learn new skills and explore fresh opportunities.”

Councillor Costigan said: “This project is a great example of how Ealing is supporting the circular economy. We’re consistently one of the top three London boroughs when it comes to recycling but we know we need to take the next step and avoid waste in the first place through re-use. This excellent initiative not only empowers and supports residents in need, but it also ensures that our old laptops can continue to be used and do not end up in landfill.”

New laptop owners receive introductory training where they are helped to learn basic IT skills, such as setting up email, or pointing them to online NHS prescription renewals or CV development websites – whatever is most suited to their individual needs.

There are regular checkups to see how the people are progressing with their IT literacy. A volunteer technician is also on hand to assist with any technical hiccups.

Free data

If you are over 18 and from a low-income household you can also get free mobile data sim cards at one of the council’s community hubs. The sim cards, provided by the Good Things Foundation, are available for people who do not have online access or are struggling to pay for mobile data.

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