The campaign to find Leeds Tech Angels is being led by a recently established group, Digital Access West Yorkshire, with funding from Leeds Community Foundation and support from Ahead Partnership, Leeds City Council and Zero Waste Leeds.
The digital divide has been exacerbated by coronavirus, with many school children lacking the means to join online lessons.
With Leeds now under Tier 3 restrictions and thousands of pupils likely to be self-isolating in the months ahead, there is an urgent need for those from more challenging social backgrounds to be properly equipped to learn remotely.
Ben McKenna, Chief Executive of social enterprise Solidaritech and a founder of Digital Access West Yorkshire, has issued a plea for local businesses to invest in the future of young people by signing up as Leeds Tech Angels:
“There are far too many digitally-excluded children and young people in Leeds, and we want to work with businesses and other organisations to help them. Laptops are at the top of our wanted list, but tablets and smart phones would also be useful. Unused machines can be deposited at several secure locations around the City or we can collect them. Each item will be fully wiped and reset to its original factory settings by an IT specialist. No personal data will remain on any devices distributed to recipients.
2020 has been difficult for all young people but particularly those without access to technology in their homes. Sadly, the likelihood of future periods out of school is high. I urge businesses with unused or wanted hardware to answer the call to become proud Leeds Tech Angels. Donations of personal equipment are also welcome”
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment at Leeds City Council:
“We have been working hard for many months to distribute digital devices to children and families in Leeds. This has included close cooperation with headteachers to maximise effective targeting of need. Leeds Tech Angels provides an ideal vehicle to help to achieve this and I urge employers and individuals to come forward with their donation of IT equipment. Leeds City Council is pleased to offer our support.”
Leeds-based social enterprise Ahead Partnership will be working with their network of corporate partners – which fund and support activities that boost young people’s career aspirations – to donate their tech to the scheme.
Megan Lipp, Head of Development at Ahead Partnership:
“Our mission is to help partners from the corporate sector to bring positive change to their local communities and give young people a more confident start to their careers. We are delighted to be working with Digital Access West Yorkshire to help Leeds employers do this in the simplest of ways by donating their unused tech. Young people are spending more time learning from home because of the pandemic but, according to the Children’s Commissioner’s Office, up to 1.78 million children in the UK do not have access to a suitable device. It is more important than ever that we all take action to close this digital divide.”
More information about Leeds Tech Angels, including how to donate tech kit, can be found at tech-angels.net
Digital Access West Yorkshire
Digital Access West Yorkshire has been set up by a diverse group of individuals with experience across the cultural and education sectors, and an understanding of community engagement, the role of play and digital access. They have a shared commitment to support children and families across the region by addressing inequalities and a digital divide, making sure that more people can connect. DAWY is a participatory, citizen-led and democratic organisation. They formed as a response to the Covid lockdown and have donated XX machines to young, digitally excluded people since April 2020.
More information is available at: accesswy.org
Leeds Community Foundation
Leeds Community Foundation supports thousands of charities and voluntary groups across the City, addressing inequalities and working together to help create opportunities for those that most need help. As part of a national network, UK Community Foundations, it distributes grants and shares advice – acting as a catalyst for positive change. Leeds Community Foundation relies on the generosity of individuals, businesses and public sector organisations to help local people to gain the support they need now, while investing in a brighter future for all.
More information is available at: leedscf.org.uk
Solidaritech was founded in 2017 to help Asylum Seekers and Refugees to get access to technology to help them resolve their immigration status, pursue studies and start their lives in their new country. Since starting out they have donated more than 250 items of tech to beneficiaries, helping people complete degrees, start businesses and educate their children. They do this by taking old, unwanted or redundant technology, wiping it, and installing a new operating system (OS).
More information is available at: solidaritech.com
Ahead Partnership connects employers with education, public and private sector partners to widen their social impact. The social enterprise works across the country with employers and educators to provide services that help employers to engage, inspire and motivate young people around skills, career options and future employment. Its award-winning and externally validated Make the Grade programme is now in its seventh year and has had an impact on over 100,000 young people to date. Make the Grade partners employers with education to equip young people with the skills they need for work and help them make informed career choices.
More information is available at: aheadpartnership.org.uk
Images provided by VANBAR Associates. Features image shows IT specialists preparing Tech Angels laptops for distribution.