For those who have computers and other modern technical appliances, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are many disadvantaged families in our community who can’t enjoy all these benefits.
When you’re living below the poverty line, computers and Internet access can seem to be unreachable.
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According to a Pew Research Center survey, 15% of U.S. adults do not use the internet, and out of that number, 19% said they couldn’t afford it. And this is despite the many recent government and social service programs built to encourage internet adoption.
Fortunately, people have come together to form local and national organizations that will provide computers for free or at a low cost to low-income families.
For some programs, you need to be registered on government programs to prove your level of need; for others, a statement of family income will suffice.
Here are some organizations that have taken it upon themselves to assist in establishing computer literacy for those who could normally not afford it.
1. Computer Technology Assistance Corps (CTAC)
CTAC is an organization that accepts donations of old computers, wipes out all data, and refurbishes them before reloading a new system and selling them at a nominal cost. It is New Hampshire based, but has contacts around the country.
It provides them to families receiving government or state assistance, and to registered nonprofits with a need.
Microsoft set up a program specifically for the purpose of providing computer refurbishers with genuine Microsoft software for low-income families and charities.
Microsoft provides the software on a cost recovery basis to eligible applicants.
Computers with Causes is a national program providing computers to low-income families or to eligible groups.
You can fill out the request form for more information.
The On It Foundation is Florida-based and provides free computers to eligible applicants.
In addition to giving low income families the equipment, it ensures that they can be used fully by giving training and Internet access.
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This time Ohio-based, Technology Assisting People in Need is a nonprofit organization which gives computers to low income families and to disabled persons.
Komputer4RKids runs a big volunteer program, picking up old computers and equipment and refurbishing them.
The items that are no use to the donation program are sent to a recycling facility.
7. With Causes
Another nonprofit organization that takes in old computers, checks them out, and make sure that they are distributed to families who need them and to nonprofit organizations.
Recycle the World is effectively a bulletin board for people in communities to post lists of items they no longer want and will give away, and for other people to find them.
The idea is that you take freely and give freely so that anything that still has useful value can find someone who needs it.
It covers much more than just computers.
You have to register and will be sent a password. If you’re searching for a particular item, there is a wanted items section for you to post in.
Not so much for the individual, World Computer Exchange is dedicated to providing computers and Internet access to youth in developing countries. It places computers in community settings where they can be used the most.
It does this by partnering with groups, such as governments, schools, libraries, NGOs, etc. who have identified a need.
10. Smart Riverside
This is an example of a local program, in this case in Riverside, California. It shows how nonprofits, local businesses, and government can all work together to make computers available to the needy.
This program offers free computers to families which earn less than $45,000, a very low income in California.
Free Computer Access
Many libraries have computers available that you can use if you are a library member, although you may be limited to a one-hour session at the time to ensure that everyone has access.
You can also ask at community centers and even schools whether they allow any public access to computers. Although if you are reading this, you have some sort of access to computers and the Internet, it may be borrowed access from a friend or a library.
Check for Local Programs
Also, don’t forget that many states and local governments do have free or low-cost laptops and computers for low-income families.
For example, in my home state of Missouri, WITS (Web Innovation & Technology Services) has been providing free or low-cost electronics as well as school supplies to local families. They even have Desktop computers starting at $50 with Windows & Open Office already installed.
If you live in Missouri you can fill out their Computers for Everyone application here.
So be sure to check with your local organizations first if you are in need of free or cheap laptops and computers.
You should also keep an eye on Freecycle, an online network of communities, which brings together people who are offering free goods in your local area.
You can sign up for free to your local group, and see what is available.
You should also check out Craigslist. There are times when people do give out used computers either for free or for a very nominal price.
Computer literacy is essential in the modern world, and if you need to have better access, I encourage you to look into the ideas above.
If you know someone or a low-income family in need of free laptops and computer, please help them by forwarding this information.