People across Sunderland are being encouraged by Protech City to part with their old laptops and desktops in a bid to help charities and those they support, to get online.

The Peterlee-based company has partnered with Sunderland City Council to launch the GO! (Get Online) Scheme offering low-cost computer equipment to registered charities which are members of the VCS Area Networks.

The three-month pilot scheme will see the city council working with private and public sector organisations across Sunderland to encourage them to donate devices they no longer need to the appeal.

The council will also be donating redundant IT equipment of its own to the scheme and donations of unwanted can also be made to the appeal at secure donation points.

Donated equipment will be collected, wiped clean and restored to its factory settings by Protech before being upgraded with Microsoft Office and sent on to its new home.

Ian Murphy from Protech said: “This project has the potential to improve the lives of many people in Sunderland. Sunderland Council is a valued partner of ours, and we appreciate their efforts in getting this idea off the ground.

“Residents, corporations, and organisations have a real opportunity to make a difference.”

Councillor Linda Williams, cabinet member for Vibrant City, said: “The pandemic has brought the digital divide into sharp focus putting those without access to IT at a clear disadvantage when it comes to everything from keeping in touch with family and friends and home learning to home working, shopping and accessing online services.

“So this is all about helping people without any access to IT, to get online by providing access to equipment and support to access the internet, whether that’s to learn from home, apply for jobs online or access online services like banking, shopping and medical appointments.”

It’s a picture Pat Johnston from Back on the Map in Hendon is all too familiar with after seeing some of those the charity works with really struggling during the pandemic because they weren’t online.

Pat said: “At Back on the Map we have supported local people throughout the pandemic to enable access to ICT equipment and the internet.

“We have seen first-hand the disadvantage and stress that has been caused to families and individuals without equipment who have been able to get online for essential needs such as Universal Credit commitments, homeschooling, online shopping and medical support.

“This scheme, alongside the face to face support available within our community centre, will go some way to levelling up communities and will enable digital to become a tool, not a barrier, in the future.”

Back on the Map is one of five locations where people can drop off IT equipment that is no longer needed.

The full list is:

  • Back on the Map, 67 Toward Road Hendon, Sunderland SR2 8JG
  • Blue Watch Youth Centre, Burdon Lane, Ryhope, Sunderland SR2 0HR
  • St Marks Community Association (Behind the Church off Hylton Road, St Mark’s Terrace, Sunderland SR4 7BN
  • Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre, 30 Tatham St, Hendon, Sunderland SR1 2QD
  • The Box Youth and Community Project, Hall Farm Rd, Doxford Sunderland SR3 2UY

Once the donated equipment has been cleaned and upgraded, registered charities and VCS organisations will be able to buy laptops and desktop computer equipment with Windows 10 for £120 (inc VAT) each to distribute and share with digitally excluded people/households at the same time as providing support to residents to improve their digital skills.

Over the coming weeks, the city council is also planning to launch a Let’s Talk Digital consult with residents across the city to help get a better understanding of what support residents need to improve their digital skills and connectivity. This will help inform future projects and investment and hopefully create the skills which will benefit the jobs market.

Pictured above (left to right): Jonathan Ward and Ian Murphy of Protech, Pat Johnston of Back on the map and Coun Linda Williams, at Back on the Map, Toward Road, Sunderland.