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San Diego seeks to plug digital divide with end-of-life city computers

It is proposing a partnership with San Diego Futures Foundation which would provide thousands of computers to families in need and reduce the future costs of recycling the technology. 

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Mayor Faulconer wants to help all citizens stay connected during the pandemic and beyond
Mayor Faulconer wants to help all citizens stay connected during the pandemic and beyond

The City of San Diego is progressing its plans to help bridge the digital divide using donated end-of-life computers.

 

It is proposing a partnership with San Diego Futures Foundation which would provide thousands of computers to families in need. The agreement would also help avoid the future costs associated with recycling the technology.

 

Lifeline not a luxury

 

The coronavirus pandemic and shift towards home and remote learning and working has accentuated the digital divide in many countries and regions around the world. Moreover, the switch to e-services as well as trends like telehealth risk further digital exclusion.

 

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said a computer is no longer a luxury “but a lifeline”. He added: “With the need for this technology growing, this partnership with the San Diego Futures Foundation will help bridge the digital divide for thousands for San Diegans and help them stay connected during this pandemic and beyond.”

 

The City Council Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee unanimously approved the partnership to begin helping some of the nearly 30,000 local households that do not have computers.

 

Currently, city authorities use a contracted vendor to recycle or destroy end-of-life computer equipment like desktops and monitors. Shifts in the global recycling industry could put this free service in jeopardy in the future. The current contract for these services has reached the end of its term and will wind down within two years.

“It’s exciting to see the City of San Diego taking a major step in ensuring that the individuals on the wrong side of the digital divide will have computers made available from the City as they’re being retired or phased out of use”

If approved by the city council, the partnership would allow the San Diego Futures Foundation to receive, refurbish and distribute the roughly 800 computers it considers end-of-life for its employees each year. To date, the council has 2,271 desktop computers that are ready to be refurbished and distributed that would otherwise be destroyed.

 

“With the current contract nearing expiration, this partnership would offer an innovative solution for the city to address digital inclusion and avoid potential costs with recycling this equipment,” said Jonathan Behnke, the city’s chief information officer. “This technology could help someone who is struggling right now to work remotely, access government services, use telehealth services, go to class and much more.”

 

The Future Foundation is a non-profit based in City Heights that provides technology and training for San Diegans of all ages as well as non-profit organisations that may need IT help. It has provided more than 53,000 computers to those in need and provided more than 10,000 training sessions. Through this partnership, the foundation would provide training to help recipients of the computers get off to a quick start and provide them with the resources to find affordable internet services.

 

“It’s exciting to see the City of San Diego taking a major step in ensuring that the individuals on the wrong side of the digital divide will have computers made available from the City as they’re being retired or phased out of use,” added Gary Knight, executive director of the San Diego Futures Foundation. “This partnership marks a major step in ensuring that this digital divide is addressed in a meaningful way.”

 

With the committee approval of the ordinance, it is expected to go before a full city council vote in the coming weeks.

 

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