Call to action for CIOs and CTOs — use your laptop refresh #laptopsforkids — An update

Damon Witherick
Mar 2 · 3 min read

With lockdown three biting hard and parents returning to teaching their children from home Mark Cheverton Redgate’s CTO (Chief Technology Officer) wrote a blog post asking technology leaders to evaluate their approach on hardware refreshes to support children learning from home. A few months on, I wanted to give an update on how Redgate’s IT (Information Technology) department has risen to the challenge.

Redgate policy is to refresh employee computer equipment once every three to four years. With a company the size of Redgate this means that we are updating around 70 pieces of computer equipment per year. This is great for employees but does mean that each year we have a collection of computer equipment that needs to be properly processed and disposed of. Historically we’ve offered this equipment to employees at reduced cost or made charitable donations, or worse it would have sat in the storeroom gathering dust.

After Mark’s call to arms, the team reviewed which machines were due to be updated. For some lucky employees we sped up a refresh of their equipment. Importantly we reached out to Redgate employees to see if anyone was struggling to provide computer equipment for their children. Despite living in the Cambridge area and working in the tech sector we did not assume that people and families have the disposable income to buy computer equipment for their children. Imagine a family with a couple of children of similar school age, those parents might be faced with the dilemma of having to share a single computer between two children. There was a small uptake by Redgate employees, and those computers have made a real difference to those children’s education over the period of lockdown.

Before any equipment is donated the machines are wiped and reloaded with a fresh install of Windows 10. Modern computers are often provided within the OEM (original equipment manufacturers) licence which can be reactivated with a fresh install of the operating system. We have some great pictures of desks covered in laptops undergoing simultaneous refreshes.

Our internal IT department reached out to several education academies across Cambridgeshire, and we started discussions with a local academy, Cambridge Meridian Academy Trust. I’m pleased to say that a substantial amount of equipment ranging from laptops PCs, monitors, headsets, RAM & hard drives and mice were donated to the Academy, finding a new lease of life across 18 schools within the trust group. Laptop donations were also made to Caldecote Primary school and St Bedes School.

Now we’re nearing the end of lockdown 3 and return to school learning should we stop our efforts to donate computer equipment to schools?

The simple answer is no, computer equipment that organisations readily cast aside can find a new lease of life in the education sector. Microsoft’s move to deprecate Windows 8 has left some schools with equipment that is end of life and cannot be updated and with school budgets the way they are, cannot afford updates to Windows 10. Continued donations of computer equipment from the private sector post lockdown will allow schools to refresh their outdated computer equipment with little or no cost to the school.

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