As exciting as it is that technological advancement has been making its way into the field of education, this creates great challenges for many people who are still deprived of high speed internet access and technological devices. This reality is known as the digital divide – the gap between communities who have access to high-speed internet and technological devices and those who don’t. Low household income and lack of government funding are two of the main contributors to the digital divide.
Families who lack adequate technological resources are being deprived of connection and communication with the world as a whole. It is common knowledge that several industries are introducing various technologies and automations. Because of this, people with insufficient training or a lack of experience with technology experience difficulty venturing into many careers that require technological competency.
Covid-19 has had education systems choosing between completely shutting down or offering online classes. In-person learning has largely transitioned to online platforms, which brought a major concern for families experiencing the effects of the digital divide. With this new requirement for every student to have access to a laptop or computer to attend their classes, the digital divide has become an even larger problem. Without a sufficient internet connection and access to a laptop or computer, children will have a challenging time keeping up with the pace of their classes.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, public libraries were the go-to place for students and families to use public computers and free internet access. However, this option was taken away with the establishment of increased health restrictions, placing more pressure on parents and teachers to find a solution to this deficiency.
Resulting from this unfortunate situation, there has been a surge in demand for donated, recycled, and refurbished laptops and computers. There are a growing number of Canadian organizations that are collecting laptops and other technological equipment to support vulnerable children and families facing the digital divide.
Founded by Leah Coss and Braden Ricketts in 2018, Build a Biz Kids is a charity that aims to equip a new generation of youth with foundational soft skills that will empower them and make them resilient to challenges. A major mission of Build a Biz Kids is to bridge the digital divide, in which they play their part by donating devices to families in need, while also advocating to make high-speed internet access a human right. This Organization offers an impactful way for people to help improve the welfare of their community and change a child’s life for the better. To contribute to the Build a Biz Kids initiative, follow this link to the “Computers for Kids” page on their website.
The Fair For All project is led by a team of highschool students in Vancouver and has established a process of assembling and restoring computers and laptops for their fellow students in Thunderbird Elementary, Lord Selkirk Elementary, and Grandview Elementary School, as well as to non-profit organizations like Kitsilano Neighborhood House. Fair For All collects these donated devices from places including St George’s School community, various local businesses, Thunderbird Community Center, as well as friends and families.
Michael Chen, the Fair For All founder, explains, “The lack of technology may discontinue a student’s studies when the assignments need to be done by computer and the research needs internet. Without access to technology, the academic progress of a student who has to stay home will be affected. A student can’t finish their homework on time, can’t enjoy the synchronous online classes, can’t socialize with his or her friends.”
The Ontario-based charity, Computers For Kids, has been fixing up and recycling electronics and gadgets since 2004. They are partnered with more than 40 after-school and summer programs, and have also made a great contribution to the environment through their responsible treatment and use of electronic waste.
A variety of electronic devices contain toxic substances that can seriously harm the surrounding environment and wildlife, as well as personal health if not properly handled or disposed of. This is the issue that Computers For Kids has been working to solve by providing a place where residents can safely and properly recycle their used electronics.
Created by Lara Tavares, Sky’s the Limit Youth Organization’s goal is to deliver refurbished laptops to youth across the Greater Toronto Area. The recipients of these laptops include new immigrants, refugees, First Nations youth, street-involved youth, and youth with mental health issues and disabilities. They have distributed 4,577 computers to date throughout Canada and beyond to places like Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica, and Kenya. Sky’s the Limit provides devices to students, while they are working with their partners to offer workshops on STEM topics, programming, coding, space & aeronautics, and more. Lara shares, “Our vision and the mandate behind Sky’s the Limit is that by providing youth with access to computers, online resources and technology, they will be afforded the possibility of enhanced success and a limitless window of opportunity to be whatever and whoever they dream of becoming.” Amidst school lockdowns and transitions to home-based learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, Sky’s the Limit has continued to work diligently to bring computers to households across Canada.