Diversity & Inclusion
Digital access / Municipal government / Nonprofits

Baltimore city government and PCs for People are teaming to recycle laptops for digital inclusion

Through the partnership, the city expects to provide 900 computers that can be refurbished for Baltimore residents.

Baltimore City Hall. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Corrected to reflect details of PCs for People's device distribution. (2/2/21, 3:25 p.m.)

Mayor Brandon Scott and the Baltimore City of Information and Technology (BCIT) partnered with ewaste recycling org PCs for People to donate more than 900 laptops to residents of Baltimore.

With the partnership, which was detailed Tuesday, city government is teaming with a digital inclusion nonprofit to get computer equipment to low-income families in the city at a time when access to devices is crucial for distance learning and remote work.

The pandemic has put a focus on efforts to close the digital divide, and the scope of the issue. Data released in May 2020 by the Abell Foundation showed that one in three Baltimore households lack a laptop, tablet or desktop. A recent report focused statewide showed that one in five Maryland households don’t have either a desktop or laptop computer. It shows that many homes need devices to connect alongside the internet access that has been the focus of other local programs.

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequities, including the digital divide,” Scott said in a statement. “With many of our families not having the proper access to electronics for remote working, virtual learning, and telehealth, we need to renew our efforts to ensure everyone has access to the 21st century technology they need to be successful.”

Baltimore city government signed a memorandum of understanding with PCs for People in 2020 that allowed city agencies to donate retired computers and electronic equipment to local students and families in need, rather than sending this technology to the landfill.

Founded in 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota, PCs for People expanded to Baltimore last year and is led locally by executive director Gary Bonner. In 2021, PCs for People opened storefront in East Baltimore at 2901 E. Biddle Street. Working with 1,500 businesses and organizations who are recycling partners nationwide, the organization refurbishes the technology to redistribute.

“With the arrival of PCs for People, we saw an opportunity to involve agencies across the city in giving new life to our retired electronics equipment and helping the thousands of Baltimore residents who lack digital devices and services to get connected,” Baltimore City CIO Todd Carter said in a statement.

After being refurbished, devices are distributed in partnership with agencies including the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and Baltimore City Public Schools. Learn more about eligibility at the PCs for People website.

Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.

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