Sorting the mixed bag of corporate IT donations

By Mick Payne, Techbuyer Managing Director

According to a Sutton Trust report from January this year, only 5% of state school teachers said their students have access to an appropriate device for remote learning, and 19% of parents overall stated their children did not have enough online learning devices. Two thirds (66%) of senior leaders in state schools had to source IT equipment for disadvantaged pupils themselves while waiting for government support. Untrained, unsupported, and faced with a plethora of other challenges from mental health to free school meal distribution, this is a massive ask.

Businesses stepping up

Businesses that can have been keen to help with donations. However, these can be of varying quality and new equipment is in massively short supply. In January 2021, car giant Audi furloughed 10,000 staff as a result of production slowdown due to the global chip shortage. Whilst demand is higher than supply, prices will continue to rise, which does not help the issue. With this in mind, it makes sense to make good use of existing resources through reuse, repair and upgrades on older machines for new users. However, making this work is not as straight-forward as it first seems.

The shortfall in direct donations

Well-meaning corporates often try to help by donating redundant IT equipment, however there are two main pitfalls, one being data and the other being variable quality. Data sanitisation and the refurbishment, repair and upgrading of such technology is no small task and one that is very difficult to do well on scale. Few schools are set up to even attempt to do this, especially not with the challenges of a global pandemic. This is where a further layer in the donation process really helps.

Indirect donations

Digital Access for All (DAFA) is a charity which aims to bridge the digital divide. Nearly two million children, young people and their families do not have adequate access to a device and/ or connectivity at home. DAFA aims to remedy this by partnering with the most reputable organisations in the refurbishment sector to deliver better solutions for those in need. At the beginning of 2020, the charity began a campaign to realise a cash return on donated IT devices, which it then used to purchase A-grade second user equipment to those who need it most. It means there are quality assurances and no data breach concerns on the IT equipment delivered and no corporate donation goes to waste.

Proper processing

Electronic devices that cannot be upgraded to run appropriate educational applications can be harvested for component parts and processed for recycling for a cash return. An entire industry, known as IT Asset Disposition (ITAD), has grown up around this. Providing certified data sanitisation through specialised software and, crucially, a secure chain of custody. The best systems are secure enough to be recognised as best practice by military organisations. Banks, FTSE100 and public sector organisations are using this as a secure, environmentally friendly solution for end of life assets.

Quality Assurance

ADISA (Asset Disposal and Information Security Alliance) represents all that is good in ITAD, and is a driving force behind quality and compliance for businesses that wish to be at the top of the ITAD industry. ADISA consulted with Digital Access For All to create a safe, high-quality marketplace late last year. The choice of a closed marketplace rather than procurement through channels like eBay, provided better value for both corporates and schools. It allowed close oversight of processing and handled compliance as well as providing quality assured equipment with redress in cases where it was not up to scratch.

Best value for all concerned

As Digital Access for All CEO Paul Finnes put it, “Donating companies can be assured of the highest level of integrity and standards, whilst being able to help directly in enabling disconnected children and families to get online.”

The marketplace has vetted and approved a limited number of suppliers that demonstrate best practice with respect to quality assurance. These suppliers provide Grade-A equipment to the marketplace, which fulfils the requests of schools and organisations who apply to the charity for help. Techbuyer is very proud to be one of them.

Although the Digital Access for All Marketplace is not the only programme of its kind, it is receiving high-level attention and support. Microsoft and Intel are both formally involved in discussions, and Dixons Carphone is involved with a partner project. Part of the reason for this is that massive organisations are concerned with disposing of their used IT hardware in the most responsible way possible – reusing wherever possible and recycling as a last resort. A programme like the marketplace can deliver on this, matching equipment to user in a way that works for everyone.  

To find out more about becoming a beneficiary of the Digital Access for All programme or donating, please visit ADISA Marketplace Digital Access for All Programme | ADISA website.