Search is on for Leeds Tech Angels to bridge Covid digital divide

Leeds Tech Angels IT specialists preparing laptops ready for distribution

An appeal has been launched for businesses and other employers in Leeds to donate unused laptops and tech to young people across the city not able to access technology at home.

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.

He said: “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 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.”

Coun Jonathan Pryor, executive member for Learning, Skills and Employment at Leeds City Council, said: “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, said: “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.”

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