A police boss is appealing to companies and public bodies in North Wales to donate their redundant IT kit to a social enterprise so it can be recycled and given to people who need it.
The plea came from the region’s police and crime commissioner, Andy Dunbobbin, during a visit to North Wales Recycle IT who have already handed out £35,000-worth of desktops, laptops, tablets and accessories.
After being repaired or refurbished, the equipment has been given to nursery groups, school pupils, charities and elderly people in care homes who are all on the wrong side of a “digital divide”.
Although it’s free of charge, each piece of equipment that’s recycled for the benefit of the community comes with a 12-month guarantee.
The launch of the service was particularly timely because the world had been knocked sideways by the Covid-19 pandemic and education had shifted online, and digital communication became increasingly important
Among the organisations that have stepped up to the plate are North Wales Police who have donated 300 bits of kit, mainly desk tops and laptops.
North Wales Recycle IT was founded by Rebekah and Robin Lowther who also run a successful commercial information technology company, C1phertech, in Llangefni, which was set up 10 years ago.
The social enterprise has provided equipment to organisations across North Wales and needs more businesses and public sector bodies to help them out so they can keep up with the demand.
Operations director Rebekah said: “Through C1phertech, we deal with a lot of waste treatment facilities in England and we realised there was nothing here in Wales for recycling redundant IT equipment.
“Companies were coming in from England, taking the equipment out and charging for the service.
“We wanted to be able to keep that equipment here in Wales, refurbish it and then give it back out to people within the community.
“We established the social enterprise in 2019, fully funded by our commercial company, set it all up and then we got all our quality certifications and accreditations on the 9th of March 2020 and then the world went mad.
“We shut down for that first lockdown. We realised then when we got back in January this year we were shocked to find just one school down the road said they had 180 pupils with no device in the house.
“It’s shocking that they would have one phone between them or one laptop which is fine in normal times if you’re just doing your homework.
“The devices donated have been life-changing for the individuals and families within the communities of North Wales.
“Children have continued their education, individuals were able to communicate with friends and family online and get essential items delivered to their door.
“Schools have now reopened but we still need help to bridge the digital divide in North Wales and help those pupils, families and individuals in need.
“We can reduce social isolation and open doors for them to communicate, educate and become connected with the outside world.”
Tech savvy Mr Dunbobbin, who has a background in IT, was “blown away by the fantastic work” being done by Rebekah and the team.
He said: “I would urge any companies or public sector organisations who are upgrading their technology to donate their redundant desktops, laptops and tablets to North Wales Recycle IT so they can be refurbished quickly and provided to those in need.
“It’s so good that North Wales Police donating equipment that is no longer needed by us and is bringing new use and that really falls in line with the green agenda in terms of recycling.
“What they are doing here is the epitome of social value, helping people across the whole age spectrum – right through from nursery school tots to elderly people in care homes, and many others in between.
“The digital divide was happening anyway, but the pandemic has accelerated the process greatly and North Wales Recycle IT are doing a brilliant job in helping to bridge that gap.
“I know they are also looking for more volunteers and if anybody wants to get involved, I’d certainly encourage them to speak to the people here.”
The hook up with North Wales Police was championed by Gareth Wynne Roberts, the force’s Deputy ICT Infrastructure Manager.
He said: “This is the ideal partnership for us because we have IT equipment that we no longer need for us as an organisation.
“We wanted a way to remove that equipment from our premises, but we wanted to try to give something back to the community and this enterprise is perfect for us. It allows us to give back to those who need it the most.
“As well as being a good thing to do, it also makes my life easier. Having a company on your doorstep to be able to come to pick up kit at any time – and not charging for it – is important and I think this relationship is definitely beneficial for both sides.
“Clearly, we have done our part in terms of security to ensure our information was clear from those machines and ensured that all security measures were in place as we didn’t want to risk not only ourselves but also North Wales Recycle IT.
“I’ve worked for North Wales Police for 18 years and this is one of my proudest moments. “
It was a sentiment echoed by Deborah Mitchell, one of the social enterprise’s non-executive directors.
She added: “It’s a free service for the organisations around us and what better way to contribute to the local economy than being able to repurpose redundant IT equipment and then give it back to those that are in need in the local community.”