Beyond The Laptops Seeks to Connect Families to Tech
Due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Southwestern Pennsylvania, countless schools have shut their doors and have transitioned to online learning. However, Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) isn’t able to make that transition as more than 7,000 students in the school district do not have access to a computer at home.
To combat this digital divide, Pittsburgh Public Schools partnered with Neighborhood Allies, the University of Pittsburgh, Google, and a larger coalition of businesses and organizations, including Computer Reach, on an initiative called “Beyond The Laptops” to acquire, refurbish, and distribute 7,000 laptops to local families in Pittsburgh.
How It Started
Initially, Computer Reach and Neighborhood Allies partnered together in an effort to refurbish 1,000 laptops for local families in need of tech to learn and work remotely during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. However, while Computer Reach had 1,000 laptops on hand ready to refurbish, we didn’t have access to power adapters that were needed to charge the devices.
In usual circumstances, these adapters could have been bulk purchased from factories. But due to closures and global supply chain delays, it would have taken three months for the adapters to arrive. That outcome was not acceptable. Because of this, Neighborhood Allies and Computer Reach put a call out to local organizations, businesses, and universities, asking if anyone had access to adapters. Thankfully, the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Technology Council heard our call.
With the help of the University of Pittsburgh’s procurement channels and the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s endorsements, the adapters were secured. However, as messages continued to pour in from local community members and families, it was obvious that the need for computers, wrap-around tech support, and connectivity was far-reaching. We needed to do more.
At that time, Aurora Innovation, a self-driving car company headquartered in Pittsburgh, took notice of the initiative. To help, Aurora Innovation rallied a coalition of companies and foundations, including Google, the Heinz Endowments, Verizon, and more. Each coalition member had something in common: their feelings of social responsibility to help their neighbors and communities in this time of need. From this, Beyond the Laptops was born.
Beyond the Laptops
Beyond the Laptops is a creative public-private partnership that was established to leverage the technology industry in Pittsburgh and elevate our collective social responsibility to help our neighbors in this time of need. Having secured a challenge grant fund of $200,000, our coalition is seeking donations from individuals to unlock these funds dollar-for-dollar. Through these funds, the initiative seeks to procure, refurbish, and distribute thousands of laptops to get Pittsburgh families connected.
As it’s often said, Pittsburgh is the “City of Bridges.” Through this initiative, our coalition is looking to build one more: the bridge to eliminate the digital divide.
Challenge Grant Champions
Support the Initiative
Right now, tens of thousands of families in Allegheny County are not able to learn and work remotely because they don’t have access to a home computer. With your help, we can change that. By submitting a $50 donation, you can help us refurbish one laptop for a family in need. If you have more to give, a $500 or $5,000 donation can help us refurbish 10 or 100 laptops respectively. There is also an option to make a custom donation for those who would like to give a different amount.
The initiative is also accepting technology donations from the public. However, due to mandatory social distancing, the initiative is only accepting donations in lots of 10 computers or more. To learn more about donating technology, visit the Beyond the Laptops website.
Beyond the Laptops has received coverage from several media platforms, including the following:
- Gerardo Interiano and Presley Gillespie: Coming together to bridge the digital divide, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- How the pandemic is exacerbating the digital divide in Allegheny County, Public Source
- ‘Not a handout … a hand up’: Coalition launches challenge to raise money for 3,000 laptops, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Pittsburgh Tech companies help pay for laptops for 7,000 city students, TribLIVE
- Pittsburgh’s tech and nonprofit communities come together to get laptops to students in need, NEXT Pittsburgh
- Beyond the Laptops challenge benefiting Pittsburgh Public Schools students, WPXI
- BEYOND THE LAPTOPS: $200K RAISED TO BRIDGE DIGITAL DIVIDE, PGH Tech Fuse
- How Pittsburgh-area companies are helping out during the pandemic, Pittsburgh Business Times
- Neighborhood Allies, Computer Reach, University of Pittsburgh Work to deploy laptops to families in need, South Pittsburgh Reporter
To learn more about Beyond the Laptops or submit a donation, visit BeyondTheLaptops.org.