Support for business

The not-for-profit closing the digital divide and fighting e-waste

How a City of Sydney grant helps one social enterprise get devices to people in need.

WorkVentures student and teacher with laptop

For many people in Sydney, the cost of living has never been higher.

One not-for-profit aims to help kids and their families with affordable laptops and computers.

WorkVentures helps meet the digital needs of Australian families while also diverting e-waste from landfill and supporting the circular economy by giving devices a second life.

Research has found kids who have access to technology in school are better able to thrive
Research has found kids who have access to technology in school are better able to thrive

Distributing tech to families in need

WorkVentures is a social enterprise focused on bridging the digital divide.

It takes electronics such as laptops and tablets from corporations, refurbishes and distributes them to people who otherwise couldn’t afford newer and more expensive devices.

So far, it has distributed around 90,000 technology packs to those in need.

But there is room to do more, according to WorkVentures CEO Caroline McDaid.

“Around 10 million laptops, PCs and mobiles are refurbished by the public and corporate sectors every 5 years. Currently only a very small proportion of these are repurposed for digitally excluded people in Australia, with most of them being sold overseas or e-cycled or sent to landfill,” McDaid said.

“Repurposing a fraction of these locally would go a long way to ensuring that every person has access to laptop, tablet or mobile to help them fully participate in education, jobseeking or accessing online services.”

How Sydney residents can access quality, cheap tech

It’s easy. The WorkVentures site has an online shop, and if you can’t access the internet at home, our library and community centre teams can help get you online.

Each purchase comes with 6 months of tech support and digital coaching.

With the support of the City of Sydney, WorkVentures has also helped Sydney residents by providing smartphones and technical support to access virtual healthcare and support services. This was done in partnership with RPA Virtual Hospital, Bridge Housing and First Nations Response.

“Access to the digital world is a key tool for finding and maintaining employment, participating in education, accessing online government and health services, and finding reliable information,” McDaid said.

That is particularly important for kids and families who increasingly need devices to complete their school work.

The cost of living crisis is hitting families hard, with a recent Smith Family survey finding one in two families report their kids might miss out on having the devices they need because of the high costs.

A new report from KPMG, created pro bono for WorkVentures, also found 84% of students with inadequate access to a device struggled to complete their school work.

Support from the City of Sydney

WorkVentures secured a $98,000 City of Sydney grant. This funding will support a feasibility study for the creation of a national device bank. The concept would be self-sufficient, with every device donated being funded through the commercial remarketing of a second device.

“While we have had some Australian companies and government agencies donating devices for social good for a number of years, there is substantial scope to amplify this,” McDaid said.

“We want to see a system where more devices are kept in Australia and redistributed free to people who are digitally excluded. We are calling upon companies and government agencies to get involved.”

The City of Sydney recycled 570 tonnes of e-waste in 2023 through its events and services
The City of Sydney recycled 570 tonnes of e-waste in 2023 through its events and services

The added benefit of keeping e-waste out of landfill

Almost all types of electronics can be recycled.

Last year, the City of Sydney recycled more than 570 tonnes of electronic items.

It’s estimated more than 470 tonnes are still being disposed of in the red lid bin and end up in landfill.

E-waste in landfills can leach hazardous substances that have devastating impacts on our natural environment. They also represent a lost opportunity to reuse and recover finite resources that can be used to make new products.

“When we recycle our electronic items, we give materials a second life, but in a fully circular economy, the products are designed for reuse, repair and refurbishment many times before they need to be recycled,” the City of Sydney’s waste strategy manager Gemma Dawson said.

Responsibly dispose of your end of life tech at events such as Recycle It Saturday or book a free City of Sydney pick-up.

Apply for a City of Sydney grant

Summer round applications for City of Sydney grants and sponsorships open from 6 February to 5 March.

Published 30 January 2024, updated 14 February 2024