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Blancco and WANdisco close Digital Divide with Laptops for Kids

Tech for Good initiative launched in North of England is tackling longstanding issues of digital inclusion exacerbated by the pandemic

Blancco Technology Group, the industry standard in data erasure and mobile device diagnostics, announced it has partnered with WANdisco, the live data company, on the Laptops for Kids campaign, a project aiming to deliver devices to schools in need across the North of England. Through donations of free drive eraser licenses, Blancco has already enabled the campaign to securely erase 1,400 donated used digital devices, with this number rising daily. The campaign has been integral in supplying children with access to technology, especially during extended periods of home schooling.

The Laptops for Kids scheme was launched by WANdisco, alongside partners including Blancco, in September 2020 and has sourced 14,000 devices to date. The project aims to address the digital divide, an issue that has been heightened by national lockdowns and subsequent school closures, with nine per cent of families without a laptop, tablet or desktop at home, according to the Children’s Commissioner.

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As part of the collaboration, Blancco and WANdisco have facilitated training on how to use the erasure software to sanitise the donated devices. This practice has been carried over to the WANdisco Data Academy at Sheffield College, where students have been taught how to carry out the erasure process themselves. The students now spend one day per week supporting the project, providing them with valuable work experience, relevant to their studies and which ultimately fosters a culture of improved cyber hygiene.

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“When WANdisco approached us about collaborating on this campaign, we were of course delighted to be a part of it. The sharp lockdowns forced issues of digital inclusion out into the open, with uncertainty around how children would access online learning,” said Adam Moloney, Chief Financial Officer, Blancco. “Donations from local communities and businesses have been instrumental in supporting this campaign, and our erasure software ensures all data is irreversibly removed from refurbished devices.

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“In organising training on how to use the software, students are understanding the importance of data management best practices, and we’re also going some way to tackling sustainability issues with e-waste. An estimated 90% of computer equipment still ends up in landfill, when more often than not that equipment can be recycled or repurposed and rehomed.”

Initial work for the project was launched with Learn Sheffield, following a survey conducted by Sheffield City Council, that highlighted the need for devices amongst schools and colleges in the city. The Laptops for Kids campaign, which has supplied 4,300 devices to 180 schools across Sheffield, has been rolled out across other northern towns and cities including Barnsley, Chesterfield, Doncaster, Lancaster, Newcastle and Warrington. David Richards, Chairman, CEO & Founder, WANdisco and the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation, sees the issue of digital inclusion as a ten-year problem and has plans for national expansion of the campaign, extending its reach to deal with wider issues concerning access to data, free education networks and the role that mobile network operators can play. For Blancco and WANdisco, the problem is not solved by children returning to school.

“We’re incredibly grateful to Blancco and all that have been involved in this fantastic campaign. We’ve seen the donations make a real impact to children’s lives in keeping them connected with their studies,” commented David Richards, Chairman, CEO & Founder, WANdisco and the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation. “But our ambition for this project doesn’t stop here. We’re still a long way from closing the digital divide and targets will move as children move through education. We’re committed to supporting schools and colleges for the longer term, as we believe no student or pupil’s potential should be limited by their access to technology.”

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