Circular Economies and Digital Equity
Approximately 250 million new computers are shipped globally every year. If you took a 5% of the computers that get replaced, some 12.5 million computers, and assumed with a little elbow grease and ingenuity they could be reused, this would form a substantial pool of inventory that could be directed to vital technology access programs around the world, removing barriers to digital equity everywhere.
This is a great opportunity for governments and advocacy groups to work with manufacturers, distributors and retailers to help with policies that support responsible electronic waste disposition and circular economies, incentivize and reward the donation of in-kind and retired IT assets to NGO and charitable organizations and provide wage-subsidy support for training programs will address inequality of capacity and narrow gaps in access to devices and the internet.
Everywhere, access to personal computers determines availability of educational, employment and community engagement. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital tools in the areas of education – especially for children – but also all manner of commerce, enterprise and increasingly governance and services, at every stage. This has only made it more critical that there be equitable access to the tools, particularly within developing countries and vulnerable communities, which are disproportionately impacted by resource scarcity, conflict and climate change.
Concrete financial support to provide training skills development in information technology and enable participation in a fair and safe digital economy is a prerequisite for reaching those individuals and communities historically ignored or dismissed as unable to acquire digital skills. This support is required in at-risk neighbourhoods and under-serviced neighbourhoods in urban settings and it is also required, perhaps more urgently, in rural and remote communities, where adoption of digital tools and the internet can open a door to information sharing, formal education and extending human networks that could have positive tangible impact on local food security and agriculture, energy supply, water quality, shelter design and construction and transportation.