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. Including everyone in our digital future.
27% of Americans do not own a computer. And one out of ten families do not have internet at home. This lack of access is sharply stratified along lines of income, race, age and education. Low-income families, immigrants, seniors and children are digitally under-connected, many with mobile-only internet access, which often isn’t enough.
The crisis is growing. Our world is growing more digital every day, and vulnerable populations are being left behind. The digital divide separates individuals along economic lines – from the cost of technology and devices, to which neighborhoods have better broadband access. Day-to-day tasks middle- and upper-class indiciduals take for granted become massive challenges to communities where basic technology and skills feel alien and inaccessible, due to language or financial barriers. From applying for jobs to completing homework assignments, from paying bills to accessing medical records to communicating with family, people with the means to access technology are at a decided advantage over those who are not. This is a social justice issue. Without technology access, full participation in nearly every aspect of American society — from economic success and educational achievement, to positive health outcomes and civic engagement — is compromised.
Now think about this: the EPA estimates that only 27% of e-waste is recycled nationally. E-waste represents 2% of America's trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste.
A large number of what is labeled as "e-waste" is actually not waste at all, but rather whole electronic equipment or parts that are readily marketable for reuse or can be recycled for materials recovery. So what if we repaired and reused these devices, in order to keep our community connected while keeping e-waste out of landfills?
Our programs are founded on this very idea. Free Geek has created a unique circular model which points two existing societal problems - excess electronic waste in need of sustainable reuse and recycling, and lack of access to basic technology among vulnerable populations - back at each other to reveal innovative solutions. The computers we grant to our Digital Inclusion participants are saved from ending up in landfills, and instead go on to find a new life helping provide our community’s most vulnerable populations with the digital literacy skills they need to succeed and thrive.