Refurbishing Personal Computers to Build Capacity in Communities

by franciscorota,

As important services and activities such as government support, college and trade school programming and modern job search increasingly move online, so a basic personal computer, licensed software and internet access becomes more essential to accessing opportunities to improve an individual’s economic prospects. We welcomed the recent declarations that broadband access was a basic need for all Canadians earlier this year. However, the prevailing costs of basic IT equipment and internet access required to administer and deliver programming for a community organization can represent a significant proportion of that organization’s operating budget. reBOOT Canada has provided quality, warrantied products and services at a fraction of those prevailing prices, allowing organizations to allocate more resources to their service delivery efforts rather than their office administration.

reBOOT Canada client organizations include food banks, referral agencies, community legal services, transition support agencies, health care providers, community hubs and many others.

Through reBOOT Canada’s Technology Access Program reSTART, professionally tested, refurbished and configured computers ready for use are made available to individuals on social assistance or demonstrating financial hardship. The computers  provided help navigate government programs, skills development and job search.

Building on this platform, reBOOT Canada installed free public Wi-Fi in Parkdale, a priority neighbourhood in downtown Toronto, in partnership with local community organizations. With a high concentration of newcomers, subsidized housing and residents requiring mental health supports, high priced data plans are often out of reach. Besides providing 24/7 internet access to residents, the program also promotes the presence of the partnered community service providers.  

We are currently working with the support of a federal department to provide job skills through paid placements for urban Indigenous youth from our Toronto and Peterborough locations. Reaching out through friendship centres and specialized employment agencies, youth with little to no computer repair/staging skills are given training and real hands-on experience to develop competence through repair and support processes and the retail sales cycle. This fall we provided over 2,000 hours of skills development training.

Redesigning the procurement process for disposal of IT asset services to consider refurbishment and redeployment in the community would be a great way to enhance resources already directed to helping at risk communities. This model could apply to many retired government assets no longer in use. 

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