Kent Digital tackles digital divide with refurbished laptops

Kent County Council has begun working with Circular Computing to provide thousands of remanufactured laptops to vulnerable people in Kent.

The digital inclusion scheme run by Kent Digital has already helped almost 5,000 residents in Kent stay connected with free access to technology. Using the carbon-neutral remanufactured laptops supplied by Circular Computing, those currently digitally excluded in the county now have the opportunity to access technology for free through Kent County Council’s Digital Inclusion and Capabilities team to help them get online.

With digital exclusion heightened following the pandemic, supporting the local population and tackling digital poverty became a priority for the council and the access scheme looks to help those either facing financial hardship, with current broken devices or students without regular technology access. To date, more than 4,500 laptops have been provided by Kent County Council following the partnership.

The remanufactured laptops are BSi certified to operate as good as new, which should mean that users do not experience a difference in performance. The devices from Circular Computing are 40% cheaper in comparison to buying new, which enables the council to buy more devices for the same outlay, providing more people with digital technology.

Remanufacturing is often regarded as a viable alternative to new. Circular Computing’s remanufacturing process offers what the company says is second-life laptops certified equal to or better than new by the world’s first BSI Kitemark, guaranteeing consistent quality in both performance and appearance.

One resident, an A-level student in Tonbridge and Malling, and a beneficiary of the Digital Inclusion scheme, said: “My previous laptop was old and became unusable so it made it really hard staying online to help me with my education. I have multiple needs due to my ASD, dyspraxia and anxiety, so I find writing difficult.

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“But having the Kent County Council laptop has allowed me to dictate, making it easier to stay on top of my subjects at school. I didn’t actually realise it wasn’t brand new until they told me.”

The student passed his A-levels and is now heading to university.

The council hopes the remanufactured devices will help Kent meet its 2030 net-zero targets. For every remanufactured laptop bought instead of new, Kent County Council will prevent approximately 316kg (700lb) of CO2 emissions entering the atmosphere, save over 190,000 litres of water from being extracted, and stop the mining of 1,200kg of the Earth’s resources. This figure is equivalent to taking around 360 cars off the road for a year and saving enough drinking water for the average person for more than 3,000 years.

Sam Lain-Rose, digital lead at Kent County Council, said: “Digital Kent’s scheme, as part of our Financial Hardship programme, showcases our commitment to supporting the people of Kent currently facing digital exclusion.

“It’s been a tough few years for residents and we wanted to make sure we reach as many individuals as possible through our projects. Partnering with Circular Computing has enabled us to do just that with better value devices, as well as helping Kent be more sustainable.”

In addition to the Digital Inclusion scheme, Kent County Council has set up a trade-in and recycling scheme for local residents to recycle their old laptops, with the council then able to use the second-hand tech to fund the continued purchase of reliable, high-quality second-life devices to support and develop the circular economy and further tackle the digital divide.

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