ReBoot IT is a project run by Basingstoke Voluntary Action where we collect computers that are no longer wanted, refurbish them and donate them to disadvantaged members of our community.
During the Covid-19 lockdown we teamed up with a similar project in a different area being run by a local Lions group. Working together we facilitated the donation of computers to organisations such as the Basingstoke Young Carers Charity, residents of Vivid Housing Association and local schools. Even after lockdown had ended the project was in still in great demand. We therefore looked to set up the ReBoot IT project for the direct benefit of our local community.
The project aims to support people who fall into one of the following categories -
- School and college students. In addition to the benefit to their education, schools are telling us that having access to a computer decreases the social isolation of young people and helps prevent bullying as students become more involved with social arrangements.
- Older people. The benefits of older people being able to access computers are well known. In addition to decreasing isolation and loneliness, this difficult year has highlighted the practical benefits for older people. If we were to face lockdown again, being able to access online shopping will take a lot of pressure off of volunteers and local support services ensuring that everyone has access to essentials. It also enables people to find and contact services, contact their GP surgeries and access advice on Covid-19.
- Employment and training. With the current economic climate resulting in redundancies and job losses, an increasing number of people are searching for employment. Most job searches, and increasingly the majority of job application forms are now online and not having access to a computer puts people at a disadvantage. We are hearing from a lot of people wanting to take online courses to develop their skills and increase their employment prospects.
- Disabilities. We found that many people with disabilities require simple adaptions to allow them to use a computer. One example was a school student who is visually impaired, whilst working with the Lions group we were able to donate her a refurbished computer with a large screen, a specialist keyboard with lager keys and screen reading software. Her response when we delivered the computer to her was overwhelming, she said that she could join in with her classmates now and access the homework portal that her school used.
We are working in partnership with local organisations who are making the referrals. These organisations include Vivid Housing, local colleges and schools, and the local job club. We have seen from our work with the Lions project that there is an overwhelming need for computer access in our community and that the benefits for individuals and families are priceless.
We would use the funding that we raise for the following -
Windows 10 licences specifically for school students. For other users we will use a free operating system, however schools have specifically told us that they need students to have Windows for consistency with computers within school. We can buy a new Windows 10 licence for £10.
Some laptops are donated and are perfectly useable but simply need a replacement battery or power cable to make them functional.
Desktop PC's often need an external webcam and speakers, this is also the case for older laptops (webcams). With so much online being around Zoom (and similar) these days the cost of adding a webcam and speaker will outweigh the benefits. Donated items will always be our priority to use, however we know from other similar projects in other areas that not many of these items are donated.
Specialised keyboards and mice etc. are considerably less costly than in the past, as is other adapted hardware. For example for a child with visual impairments, extra funding would enable us to purchase a large button keyboard and extra large screen, simple adaptions which would result in them being able to use a computer.
With Covid-19 currently restricting us from going to peoples houses to show them how to set up their computer it is important that we produce an easy to use guide that could be used by someone using a computer for the first time.