Helping solve the digital divide one computer at a time

Helping solve the digital divide one computer at a time
Monday, June 6, 2022

UNC Charlotte recycles nearly 300 laptops a year, and the University’s OneIT team looked for an organization to partner to get these computers to local families in need. As a result, these laptops are being refurbished and re-imaged by high school students and are redistributed to families in Mecklenburg County, thanks to E2D, a Charlotte-based nonprofit organization.

An estimated 26,000 households in Mecklenburg County lack home-based, connected computers. And that number is well over 150,000 for the state of North Carolina. In today’s technology-driven world, it is nearly impossible for a student to thrive without full access to online resources. In fact, the University instituted a laptop requirement for all new undergraduate and graduate students in 2020. With support from educational institutions, like UNC Charlotte, and local corporations, E2D works to ensure that all North Carolina students have affordable access to at-home computers and the internet.

“UNC Charlotte is proud to partner with E2D to help bridge the gap between families in our community who have ready-access to computers and those who do not,” said Mike Carlin, vice chancellor for OneIT and chief information officer. “Utilizing the University’s resources enables us to help improve the educational and socioeconomic outcomes for K-12 students and families in the Charlotte region.”

E2D’s I.T. Workforce Development program hires and trains local high school students to refurbish the donated laptops with new operating systems. The computers are then distributed to families at a very low cost or for free, in some instances. The Re-Image CLT lab currently employs 50 students. Since the program's inception nine years ago, more than 300 students have been employed; with 80% going on to college and 20% finding jobs within the IT sector. Six of those students are currently enrolled at UNC Charlotte. The training program allows these high school students to create their own pathways of opportunity for a brighter future.

"E2D is so pleased to be partnering with UNC Charlotte on the refurbishment and redistribution of laptop computers,” said Pat Millen, co-founder and president of E2D. “Our collaboration just makes sense. E2D and Charlotte both know how important IT workforce development is for this community. We are delighted to be working alongside the University going forward."

Since 2013, E2D has worked with 167 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and more than 27,000 families and 86,400 people have used laptops provided by the organization.