Deloitte donates laptops to address Covid digital divide

Deloitte is donating 5,000 of its laptops to UK schools, charities and families. The pledge, announced by Richard Houston, senior partner and chief executive at Deloitte North and South Europe, is in response to the growing digital skills gap and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deloitte is committing that all of the firm’s used laptops will be reconditioned and given a second lease of life. Any devices unfit for future use, will be stripped and the parts will be recycled. Deloitte is working with IT disposal experts OCM and N2S Ltd to ensure all laptops are confidentially wiped to factory settings, rebuilt and upgraded.

Schools from Belfast to Jersey will benefit as Deloitte will distribute 2,600 laptops to its 26 partner schools across the UK. Deloitte will then distribute the remaining devices to its charity and social enterprise partners, and to other good causes nominated by Deloitte’s people.

Richard Houston, senior partner and chief executive at Deloitte North and South Europe, said: “Purpose guides our decision-making at Deloitte and during the pandemic our values have never been more important as we remain focused on helping to overcome barriers to education and employment. Our research shows that among those who have an annual household income of less than £13,500, 18% do not own or have access to a desktop or laptop computer. Lockdown has shifted the status of many devices from a nice-to-have to a must-have as education is now predominantly virtual. Digital inclusion has improved in recent years but those without access to the right technology, or skills to use the technology, are struggling.

“There is an urgent need to get computers into homes of children who are currently unable to access online lessons. While 5,000 laptops is a fraction of what’s required, that’s 5,000 additional people getting the critical digital access that they otherwise would not have had.”

Deloitte’s 5 Million Futures programme recently donated £8,000 to each of its 26 partner schools to help with their ongoing COVID-19 requirements. This included the expansion of digital learning, mental health care and food provision. This is in addition to the ongoing tutoring and mentoring the firm provides young people and to the support provided by Deloitte volunteers on governing bodies of schools.

Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First, commented: “The digital divide remains an immediate and persistent challenge for pupils, particularly those from poorer backgrounds. All schools are doing their best in a challenging environment, yet with unequal access to the tech needed to study at home, the gap between children from wealthier homes and their poorer peers is greatly exacerbated. During this pandemic we all have a role to play to support those most in need, so it’s fantastic to see big businesses like Deloitte stepping forward to help bridge this divide. By coming together, we can help to give every child the best possible chance of a bright future beyond this pandemic.”

By ensuring all Deloitte laptops are reused or recycled, this pledge supports the firm’s global climate and sustainability strategy – to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. In addition, Deloitte is encouraging its people to take action by donating their personal defunct devices. For example, old mobile phones and tablets can be restored, six months connectivity added, and rehomed via Vodafone’s Great British Tech Appeal charity partner, Barnardo’s.

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