Reflections at the end of 2021
Updated: Jan 21
As we are about to start the festive period at the end of another very difficult year, it is time to reflect on what we have achieved in 2021 at Laptops4Learning.
Looking back, 2021 started with another national lockdown, following some relaxations over the Christmas period which resulted in a surge of COVID cases. With what is happening now, you might be forgiven for thinking that we are living in Groundhog Day, with COVID once again running rampant and talk of urgent restrictions. While vaccines may be a game-changer in terms of severe illness, there are many other harms that come out of social distancing and avoiding contact with others.
If there is one thing that has hit home to us very forcibly throughout this year, it is the widespread nature of digital inequality across all parts of society and across the age groups. COVID-19, in closing schools, created a focus on the digital divide as it related to education, and served to highlight problems that already existed in this area. These last two years have been an education for us at Laptops4Learning – the more we have investigated, the more urgent needs we have identified all around us, and not just in obvious places. The needs are everywhere, even in areas considered generally to be affluent. As our awareness has grown, so has the range of needs that we are helping to address.
Devices to children for education
Continuing from our achievements in 2020, this year started with a large focus on getting devices to children who needed them to be able to continue their education. We worked a lot with Rugby Clubs, notably Richmond, Bedford Blues and Medway, to refurbish donations that they had received from the public, making them plug-and-play ready for children to use. We continued to work with Chris Tooley of the Netherhall School in Cambridge, who had been instrumental in highlighting the needs in one of our most affluent cities. We also enabled many devices to be distributed across Bedfordshire, in conjunction with Level Trust and the then High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, Susan Lousada.
Family and early intervention services
We continued to work with Families First in Hertfordshire, to get devices out to families in need, and we have recently donated devices to New Horizons team at CHS Group in Cambridge, who help those who are out of work with financial issues, getting online and getting closer to employment.
Homeless people often have no means of communication and we were delighted to have been able to help both Winter Comfort and It Takes a City continue their great work in this area by donations of mobile telephones to help the vulnerable.
We have worked with Cambridgeshire County Council, Creative Learning and Cambridge Online, getting devices out to help with adult learning and communication. This year saw us become part of the Cambridgeshire Digital Partnership, a network set up to improve digital inclusion across Cambridgeshire. We were also delighted to be able to donate devices through Citizens MK to the Trinity Centre in Milton Keynes, to help set up an internet café for people to learn digital skills and get access online.
Digital poverty amongst refugees is another area of great need. Devices are essential for the children to learn, and for adults to help with communication where they have problems speaking English. These people have often come from the most dreadful of circumstances and urgently need help. We have been able to donate devices to Jubilee Wood School in Milton Keynes to help refugee children learn computer skills. Very recently we have donated Chromebooks to the Afghan Ladies Football Team and their families, as well as laptops to Refugee Connections to help Afghan refugees in bridging hotels in London. We very much hope that these people can build a new life for themselves in safety in the UK.
Significant new partnerships
We are delighted to have agreed some significant new partnerships in 2021. KidsOut do amazing work bringing toys and experiences to children living in refuges where they have had to flee from domestic abuse. Our partnership will see their work extended to include, with the toys they provide, a laptop or tablet to help with communication and learning for these vulnerable children. We have also partnered with Community Group, who specialise in forming and operating community departments for sports clubs, helping them to maximise their community engagement. We had already encountered Community Group through our work with Richmond Rugby earlier in the year. We very much look forward to expanding our work with these partners and together making a real difference in 2022.
Helping our environment
Our work to get refurbished devices out to those in need is also benefitting our environment, extending product lifecycles, avoiding e-waste and landfill, saving CO2 emissions and the use of yet more scarce raw materials to produce new devices. With COP26 in Glasgow highlighting the climate emergency, there really can no longer be any excuse not to have redundant tech refurbished and given a new life. We are proud of our circular economy model, which brings both environmental and social good.
Over the year, the national focus may have shifted somewhat away from the digital divide, but for those living in digital poverty the problems have certainly not gone away, and they only stand to be exacerbated by any measures taken to combat the spread of COVID. We are delighted by what we have managed to achieve throughout 2021, but are acutely conscious that we are only scratching the surface of what needs to be done. We very much look forward to extending our work more widely, working with our partners and trying to make a real difference in 2022.
Please get in touch to find out how we can help you to help us reach many more people in the New Year.