connect / 2019
Transforming E-Waste into Opportunity
We take in unwanted technology (often thought of as "e-waste") from businesses and residents, fix it, and donate it back to low-income Angelenos free-of-charge. The outcome is straightforward: less technology waste and more people with technology. We pair donated computers with free or low-cost internet & digital training. These connections ensure Angelenos have the means to engage in civic processes and share local resources for events, housing, volunteerism, and so much more.
What does your organization do?
human-I-T provides low-income individuals & nonprofits with technology, internet, and digital training. By reusing instead of recycling electronics, our team transforms e-waste into opportunity.
Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.
LA is better place to connect when we all have equitable access to the digital world. One of the most poignant examples of that comes from a single mother of two named Hernanda. Hernanda faced many of the same struggles that all of our recipients do in getting online. Without a computer at home, she took two buses to access a computer at a local library and competed in long lines to get online. Once online, she was restricted to two hours of use. Hernanda was confronted with how to best use those two hours: whether to look for new job listings, help her children with homework, or find more affordable housing. With limited time, many job applications, health insurance forms, and school assignments remained incomplete. She was cut off from the digital resources for self-sufficiency desperately needed by her family.
Fortunately, with the addition of a new computer, internet connection, and digital literacy training from human-I-T, Hernanda was able to allocate proper time to job searching, helping children with their online homework, and accessing digital social services. Since receiving the donation, she gained employment at a rate of three additional dollars per hour, increasing her household revenue by $4,000 every year. She also became more engaged in her local neighborhood association with the encouragement of digital literacy training, helping to orchestrate Long Beach’s tree planting campaign. Through it all, she was able to move off of government assistance and forge a path towards self-sufficiency.
Hernanda credits access to technology as her and her children’s path upward: “This program help[ed] my son with school tremendously. He was able to get ahead on his math and reading. He got a academic award for math and met all the AR reading goal for the first time this school year. And for me, I am taking 3 online classes right now which is so convenient for me cause [I] am able to be more active with my sons school activities and sports. It’s also helpful for applying for jobs and setting up a resume. I’ve learned so much on this new technology, both about politics and my local news.”
Which of the connect metrics will your submission impact?
- Access to free wifi
- Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
- Total number of local social media friends and connections Angelenos have
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- County of Los Angeles
How will your project make LA the best place to connect?
human-I-T tackles two looming problems born from the digital age:
-In LA, 1 in 4 people lack a computer with internet at home. Among the least connected are low-income people and people of color. Offline households are locked out from local resources that live online - including support groups, cultural events, job opportunities, transit-accessible housing, and voter records.
-At the same time, 150,000 computers are thrown away in the U.S. every day. These computers are referred to as e-waste - the fastest growing waste stream in the world. E-waste is teeming with toxic chemicals that deteriorate our air and soil quality. It causes severe health problems for residents living near landfills.
human-I-T brings together these two problems to create one solution. We take in unwanted technology, refurbish it, and donate it back out to low-income households. Computers are coupled with access to wifi and digital training so recipients can tap into all of the opportunity that exists online.
For donors, we offer free pickup of technology, data sanitization, and a tax-deductible receipt for each item. Partners include the likes of County of Los Angeles and USC. Technology is then transported to our warehouse, where IT Staff refurbish items for donation. As items are repurposed, staff trains volunteers how to repair hardware components & administer technical support. This vocational training program completes the cycle in which excess technology from Angeleno consumers are repurposed by community members and later donated to low-income households in LA. This community-driven approach inspires the entire community to create impact by donating their unwanted goods to someone who desperately needs it.
We also partner with Internet Service Providers to provide free and discount internet (starting at $10/month) to qualified low-income households. Our team outreaches to communities about options available to them, qualifies them for offers based on income and territory, educates about the different speeds available, and provides neutral guidance on what suits their needs best. human-I-T offers ongoing technical support to troubleshoot any hardware or software issues thereafter.
At a time when college apps, job boards, healthcare, support groups, & volunteer opportunities are hosted digitally, human-I-T is committed to getting underserved populations plugged in. With every connection, low-income individuals are granted a seat at today’s digital table. Digital training then provides access to a world of transit-accessible housing, employment, public gatherings, emotional support networks, and government records.
One hundred percent of our recipients are low-income, meaning they receive some form of government assistance or have an income 200% the poverty threshold. Our recipients include students, veterans, persons with disabilities, single mothers, and LGBT shelters among others.
In what stage of innovation is this project?
Expand existing program (expanding and continuing ongoing successful projects)
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.
We track several outputs to gauge the effectiveness our programs, including the number of computers donated, households connected to the internet, individuals providing digital training/ resources, and the pounds of e-waste diverted from landfills. We define success in 2019 as connecting 4,500 households to free or low-cost internet, donating 3,000 computer systems, and training 500 individuals on digital resources.
Beyond the numbers, we use qualitative data to gauge the programs’ success. Our Programs Manager conducts post-donation surveys to measure how each connection makes an impact on users’ lives. We collect data about how many households use the device to apply to college, find affordable housing, secure new jobs, establish permanent residency, increase their social network, and access social services. Success is achieved when over 95% of recipients use their connection towards one of those goals, therefore increasing their presence in the community.