Deloitte donates thousands of laptops to help plug digital skills gap

12 February 2021 3 min. read
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Big Four firm Deloitte has announced it is donating 5,000 laptops to UK schools, charities and families. The move comes in response to the growing digital skills gap, which has been intensified by the closure of schools and libraries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated a growing divide between the haves and the have nots of Britain’s education system. Deloitte research shows that among those who have an annual household income of less than £13,500, 18% do not own or have access to a desktop or laptop computer. While students from wealthier homes have been able to take to remote learning with ease, many more have been left behind during the lockdown months – and neglected by government policy throughout the pandemic.

In October 2020, schools in some of the most deprived areas of the country were told they would not receive the laptops they were promised to help their poorest and most vulnerable pupils learn remotely. The news that allocations of laptops for disadvantaged pupils had been slashed by around 80% came just two days after the government used its Covid-19 emergency powers to impose a new legal duty on schools to provide a remote education to any pupil unable to attend lessons because of the pandemic.

Deloitte donates thousands of laptops to help plug digital skills gapProfessional services giant Deloitte is one firm looking to help plug the technological gap, and has announced it will distribute 2,600 laptops to its 26 partner schools across the UK. Meanwhile a further 2,400 are going to Deloitte’s charity and social enterprise partners, and to other good causes nominated by staff.

Richard Houston, Senior Partner and Chief Executive at Deloitte North and South Europe, commented, “Lockdown has shifted the status of many devices from a nice-to-have to a must-have as education is now predominantly virtual… There is an urgent need to get computers into homes of children who are currently unable to access online lessons. While 5,000 laptops are a fraction of what’s required, that’s 5,000 additional people getting the critical digital access that they otherwise would not have had.”

All of the Big Four firm’s used laptops will be reconditioned and given a second lease of life, while any devices unfit for future use, will be stripped and the parts will be recycled. Deloitte is working with IT disposal experts OCM and N2S Ltd to ensure all laptops are confidentially wiped to factory settings, rebuilt and upgraded.

In addition, Deloitte is encouraging its people to take action by donating their personal defunct devices – for example, old mobile phones and tablets can be restored, six months connectivity added, and rehomed via Vodafone’s Great British Tech Appeal charity partner, Barnardo’s.

Elsewhere, Deloitte’s 5 Million Futures programme recently donated £8,000 to each of its 26 partner schools to help with their ongoing Covid-19 requirements, including the expansion of digital learning, mental health care and food provision. The initiative, which aims to address inequality, is in addition to the ongoing tutoring and mentoring the firm provides young people and to the support provided by Deloitte volunteers on governing bodies of schools.