Corporate Technology Drives During COVID-19

15 Apr 2020

The digital divide has always been a serious problem, but in the era of COVID-19 its dire. Free Geek has been on the front lines of bridging the digital divide and right now the demand for Free Geek’s low to no cost computers is higher than ever in our history.  Hundreds of thousands in our community are not connected to the internet or need a device to access it. Seniors need vital access to their doctors through telehealth appointments, workers need access to devices to continue their work from home and students need access to machines so that they complete their school work.

Free Geek has been working around the clock to fulfill requests for technology  from at risk members of our community. Thanks to companies like Intel they have been putting computers in the hands of more people than ever before, but they are now getting dangerously low in inventory. Students, seniors and workers need laptops to stay home and still participate in society. At the current demand level Free Geek will be completely out of laptops in less than 2 weeks. 

Together we can solve this problem. Free Geek and Intel developed a safe program to allow Intel employees to donate computers.  It was a huge success and Free Geek was able to collect over 500 usable systems that will be returned to the community.  Many people are moving past the shock of the pandemic now and want to find a way to help; this is a real tangible way that you can help your community.

If you are interested in putting a program like this together, please email John Ashcraft and they will work with you or your team to set up a technology donation program that works specifically for you.

About Free Geek:

Free Geek’s mission is to sustainably reuse technology, enable digital access and provide education to create a community that empowers people to realize their potential.  They have been an active community member bridging the digital divide for 20 years.

Impact Stories: The following is a small sampling of stories that we’re receiving in the community and  of what impact a computer can have to someone who needs it.

A houseless mother of 3 in her own words:

“My name is Kimberly, and I found you guys online in search of a laptop for schooling. I'm 31 years old, I have 3 beautiful children, an adorable puppy, and my love (who is battling for disability) to support, and I'm trying to go back to school to show those kiddos that nothing is impossible. I'll be going for a data science certificate, working with AI doing things that tickle my nerd fancy (I love working with tech, I used to work on bitcoin miners at a data mining facility in the dalles, that was wicked awesome.) But unfortunately I can't start the schooling program I'm enrolling in until I have a computer, and I'm too young to settle for a job at a doughnut shop until... what? I can't retire from that at this point, it is a special dead-end feeling.

My issue is that I am breath-takingly broke providing for my family on what little I make here and there. I'm ready to set my sights on accomplishing a career path. I am extremely limited in my resources, as times are very tough and we had to move into our van about 2 months ago.

I don't have anywhere to put a desktop, so I'm in desperate need of a laptop specifically; one that can keep up with all my coding projects (I'm very resourceful in the technology department, I use my phone for a wifi hotspot when I'm not near any free wifi, so I'll have no issues finding that for schooling or work). But nothing insanely fancy. I've scoured craigslist in my area, as well as facebook marketplace to hit a lot of metaphorical walls. Specifically financial walls. I simply do not have the money, but owning a laptop, which I haven't owned in years, would turn our lives around at this point. I receive SNAP, and I'm so sick of spending that precious food money on water bottles to turn into fuel money just to make it to interviews and check-ins at the temp agency etc. I'm exhausted, this would be my big break in life.”

9-Year old boy with Autism:

The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools throughout Oregon, forcing students and teachers to pursue digital learning alternatives. Education institutions provide valuable services to some of our communities most vulnerable, and 9-year-old Ricky is one of those students. You see, Ricky is on the autism spectrum, and has been receiving onsite therapy until the crisis hit. Under normal circumstances, students like Ricky have access to services through their school’s special education program, and onsite counseling, as well as assistance with school work. Now,  schools and clinics are closed, leaving Ricky without access to the services he needs.

Thankfully, Ricky’s mother got in contact with Free Geek, and shared his story with us and we were able to provide Ricky with a laptop. Now, he’s able to attend digital therapy through a local institution, continue his school work and receive the help he needs, all from the comfort of his own home. Ricky’s story is not unique, displaced students from vulnerable communities are in need of digital access to continue receiving crucial medical services and pursuing educational opportunities.

Senior in need of tech:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of our daily lives; none are more affected by this crisi than the aging population. Seniors like Betty, are all but required to stay indoors, only leaving the house if absolutely necessary. Betty was recently diagnosed with dementia, among other physical ailments, and because of this crisis, her family is unable to visit her, nor is she able to receive the medical attention she needs. Betty is alone; isolated from her loved ones and unable to access necessary health services.

This situation is all too common. With the existing stay home order, seniors are unable to connect with their families.  Additionally, hospitals and clinics are overwhelmed with the rapid increase of patients displaying COVID-like symptoms, and many medical institutions are requiring virtual healthcare visits for more common ailments and traditional check-ups. For people like Betty, a computer from Free Geek allows them to not only connect with loved ones digitally, but access critical health services virtually. As the path forward remains uncertain, it's crucial to provide seniors and the aging population with the live-saving technology they need to survive this pandemic.

Foster Care Kids:

The COVID crisis has affected every facet of our daily lives; closing schools, isolating families, and hurting our community. Individuals from vulnerable communities are disproportionately harmed by the stagnation of society, especially children in the foster care system. In2018, Oregon DHS reported more than 7,000 children living in foster care. For these kids, your inconveniences of social distancing and the “stay at home” order uprooted their entire world. They’re unable to check in with their social worker, talk to their biological parents or even keep up on their school work. For these children, the COVID crisis has fundamentally altered their lives.

A laptop changes that. Recently, Free Geek partnered with The Contingent, a fellow nonprofit, to provide 200 children in foster care with laptops. Now, these kids are able to video chat with their social workers for safety and health check-ins, virtually talk with their biological parents, and engage in teleschooling. For children in the foster care system, digital access can mean the difference between staying engaged with your care providers, and having to fend for themselves. While the future remains uncertain, it’s crucial to provide children already experiencing a traumatic event, with the technology they need to ensure their stability and safety.