In our day and age, the limits of personal and collective success are pretty much drawn along the lines of an invisible but widely felt digital divide. Yes, we are referring to a gaping chasm that divides societal categories and regions into those that have access to modern IT and communication resources and those with no such privilege. This digital divide resonates across all walks of life and impacts crucial societal foundations such as education.
To help bridge both the educational and digital gap, the repairing and repurposing of electronic devices have emerged as one of the key tools to narrow down and ultimately dismantle these undesirable borders in our societies.
Now, the definition of the digital divide has changed over the years, but the concept and the outcomes have remained the same: back in the day, the term referred to people who, for instance, had no access to a cell phone network as opposed to those who did. Now that these devices have become ubiquitous, the digital divide encompasses those who have reduced or no access to both the internet and functional personal computers. The reason for it may vary, but most often include the lack of financial means to acquire these devices at current price levels.
In the meantime, though, these two technologies have become instrumental in driving the desired outcomes in the fields of elementary and higher education. The reason for it is simple – the broad digitalization of educational sources, the speed at which interactive content can be accessed, and the availability of multimedia educational resources now all depend on having access to appropriate electronic devices and networks. Those who do not have access to these, the underfunded communities and deprived individuals, have their educational attainment crippled together with their chances to fully participate in an increasingly competitive job market.
In this manner, the existing digital divide feeds the educational gap and creates a vicious cycle in which those with reduced job opportunities on the account of their lower education find it hard to earn enough to procure digital devices whose lack only exacerbates their already precarious situation in the domain of the educational outcomes.
To do this, we have to understand what creates the digital-educational gap in the first place. Clearly, the primary reason is the cost and reduced affordability of the devices and services that can be utilized in the educational process. So, the priority in combating these anomalies is to make these devices and systems more easily attainable.
The first step to do this is to put more focus on the repurposing of the technology needed to close both the technological and educational gap. This has to be done at the expense of the current focus on the recycling of these assets which, while useful, has minimal impact on the issues at hand.
In terms of demographics, the school children are the most affected by this problem, simply for the reason that they are neither equipped with the right skills nor legally permitted to fully participate in the modern-day job market. To help them surmount these challenges, we have to establish a circular economy of sorts that provides help to the underprivileged in the educational process, with a focus on school-age children.
Refurbishing of used devices followed by their repurposing will help these categories come by them and improve their educational outcomes regardless of their family income levels, impaired technological infrastructure, age differences, and places of residence.
The first step is to make a selection of the educational institutions that are most heavily impacted by the digital divide and the ensuing educational gap. This means getting an overview of the number of families that are in financial dire straits and thus unable to procure the technology the students need to participate in online classes or do their homework.
It is essential to take into consideration the highly volatile prices of the IT equipment at the moment as their unexpected hikes constantly shift the bar in terms of what is deemed financially “accessible” or not. By repurposing and refurbishing used electronic devices and placing them in the market, the underfunded communities and schools can also find their way around the ongoing global supply and procurement crisis caused by the pandemic.
What’s the role of the companies in this collective effort, particularly those focused on their social and environmental impact, also known as B Corporations? First of all, they already have networks of partners that can support the device reuse efforts and improve their community-level impact. Some of these companies have already been involved in individual campaigns to increase the availability of electronic devices (such as laptops) in education at a communal level. Yet, to make these efforts have a lasting impact, it is necessary to significantly boost the number of devices available to this population. This means creating a broad program that will include social, environmental, educational, and governmental stakeholders with an official support and certification system in place to back it up.
Businesses willing to take part in these schemes get a lot to gain from them, beyond the mere knowledge that they can help someone participate in a nationwide education process without technological obstacles. Their participation can boost their community-wide status as well as improve their eco-friendliness credentials by reducing the amount of technological waste being produced.
Becoming a part of the partnership with the official backing of an industry-wide IT asset disposal program helps businesses achieve both goals within a shorter time frame and with a broader impact. Instead of going for a short-term benefit of recycling schemes with their partners, these companies can forgo a smaller amount of quick profit and go for a credit-based system offered by the licensed IT asset disposal partners.
In an age of socially responsible capitalism, profits, ecology, and societal benefits can come as one and this is best seen with relying on the refurbishment and repurposing of electronic devices as a way to increase their availability in education. By helping the underfunded communities and the underprivileged students, a society-wide program with this mission can close both the technological divide and the educational gap that stems from it at the same time. The result is the improvement of employment prospects in the increasingly digital job market, a reduced environmental impact, and a long-term reputational boost for all the businesses involved.