The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is to donate around 150 old laptops and desktop computers to school children to help address digital poverty across the region.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who leads the WMCA, has made the decision to donate the old computers, which will go to those school children most in need via Birmingham-based company Wowdot and its Connect_In campaign.
Wowdot, a community interest company started by former Asian Business Chamber of Commerce president Qasim Majid, aims to provide 1,000 families in Birmingham with a computer in the next 12 months through its campaign. As well as handing out old computers, the Connect_In campaign will also provide families with a 12-month internet connection.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA with computers
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “With schools temporarily closed, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how some school children and their families do not have a computer and access to the internet. Given the digital age we live in this simply isn’t right, and something we as a region have to come together to address.
“The Government is helping to tackle this whilst schools are closed, but this issue will not just go away when schools re-open. That is why I wanted to support the Connect_In campaign, which provides both a computer and an internet connection for at least a year. I am pleased the West Midlands Combined Authority has been able to pledge to donate around 150 old computers, and I would urge any business or individual who has an old laptop or desktop PC lying around to see how they can get involved and help.”
The donation comes after the WMCA published its West Midlands Digital Roadmap last week, which identified increasing access to digital opportunities for everyone as a key opportunity. The authority has partnered with the Good Things Foundation to work together to bridge the digital divide.
The WMCA is the latest large organisation to give its backing to the Connect_In campaign, with Aston Villa FC and the Aston Villa Foundation also pledging to donate their surplus laptops and computer tablets.
All old computers that are donated to the campaign are refurbished and safely recycled by the social enterprise Repc Ltd, before being donated to Birmingham schools to give to their pupils who are most in need of both a computer and internet connection. The internet connectivity is being provided by Intercity Technology, with Millennium Point acting as a drop-off and collection point for computers.
Qasim Majid, who founded Wowdot and the Connect_In campaign, said: “We understand that the closure of schools has been a challenge for all young people. However, those from the poorest families are suffering considerably, due to digital exclusion, social isolation, and a lack of mental stimulation.
“The issue of digital poverty has been present far longer than any pandemic; however national lockdowns have certainly painted a deeply saddening picture of what the future of these young people could potentially look like, if we don’t step in to help now.”
Qasim and Andy are also joining forces to urge people across the West Midlands to help the campaign in any way they can. The campaign is most in need of businesses and individuals to donate their old laptops and desktop computers, but is also after volunteers to help with social media and deliveries, as well as financial support. £300 will provide a child with a computer and a year-long internet connection.