On April 13 the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City launched the Employer Laptop Challenge. The campaign’s goal is to reduce the digital divide by getting other employers to join us in donating used computers to nonprofit refurbishers. Refurbishers then provide the computers to lower-income people who need them to do homework, attend college, apply for jobs, and more. The need was great before COVID-19 – about a third of low-income households do not have a computer at home – and since the pandemic it has become critical.

The launch triggered interest from employers across the country. A few, such as the Platte Valley Bank in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Snap IT Solutions in Overland Park, Kansas, had devices ready to donate and just needed to know where to send them. Other employers were interested but needed some guidance on how to make it work. Answers to these questions may also help you become a #LaptopHero.

Desktops are also welcome …

… as are tablets, Chromebooks, docking stations and other ancillary devices.

Your employer’s process for handling older computers might need to be revisited.

One employer we talked to said his company shreds the hard drives, then recycles the rest. The company is in a Tennessee town that lacks a computer refurbisher to “wipe” data from their machines (a process known as data destruction). They thought that shredding the hard drives was the only way to ensure their data didn’t end up in the wrong hands.  

We connected him with the National Cristina Foundation (NCF), which supports a network of nonprofit computer refurbishers across the country. NCF is connecting the employer to a nonprofit refurbisher that can address security concerns at little-to-no cost and get the computers into the hands of those in need.

The Employer Laptop Challenge has no geographic boundaries.

Some employers outside of Kansas City or the seven states of the Tenth District wanted to know whether they could participate. The answer? Absolutely.

In Kansas City, business and civic organizations have united to spread the word to their membership. These organizations include: the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Council and Connecting for Good.

We’re working to develop similar partnerships in regions across our District. We’re also happy to talk to both employers and community leaders outside the Tenth District. Send us an email to start the discussion.

You don’t need to donate 1,000 computers to participate.

Nor do you need to donate 100, or even 50. Not every employer has that many computers available at any one time. That’s OK.

Your devices can be a little older.

One company had some older iPads and asked us whether they could be of use. We contacted Tony Frank at PCs for People in Denver to see. Tony said that the iPads’ age does limit their ability to be used for telehealth applications, however, they can still support internet browsing and other applications. The donation was arranged and now some low-income seniors will be able to access services online and FaceTime their grandkids.

If you are unsure of how to make a donation work, but are interested in trying, let us know.

The approach you take to donating computers may vary from that of other employers. There is no one right way to do it. If you have questions or want tips from how other employers addressed internal challenges, let us know. We’re happy to help.

Author

Jeremy Hegle

Senior Community Development Advisor

Jeremy W. Hegle, a native Missourian, was 12 when he began helping on his grandfather’s farm. He later served in the Army National Guard, launched a business support organization…