Circular electronics for social good: Reusing IT equipment to bridge the digital divide

CEP Secretariat
April 11, 2024
2 min read

Circular electronics for social good: Reusing IT equipment to bridge the digital divide

Author: Good Things Foundation

In January 2023, Good Things Foundation (the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity) and the Circular Electronics Partnership (CEP) asked Deloitte to support them to better understand the opportunities for businesses to reuse their IT equipment to bridge the digital divide. The research has led to the development of a circular electronics for social good model which benefits society as well as the environment.

This report summarises insights and lessons from interviews with business leaders across different industries. It highlights enablers, barriers, and opportunities for IT reuse for social good. Whilst the scope of this report is limited to the UK, its findings may be a springboard for organisations in similar countries.

The Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns highlighted the urgency of addressing the digital divide. Many businesses, charities, large organisations, and government stepped up to help where they could. But, when lockdowns ended, digital divisions remained. In the UK today there are 10 million adults excluded and 1 in 20 households without home internet access. The social benefits of bridging the divide are significant – getting work, doing schoolwork, connecting with family and friends, accessing services; the nation also benefits economically with over £13.6 billion1 in tangible benefits in the UK.

Businesses are increasingly attuned to how they can improve their environmental, social and governance credentials, and promote a circular economy. Digital technologies play a critical role at every step of most businesses’ value and supply chains, and they require their staff, clients, and customers to have sufficient digital access and skills. Yet, even in countries with high levels of digital infrastructure, significant digital inequalities remain. The UK’s digital divide is stark. This limits opportunities, hinders economic productivity, and exacerbates social injustice and inequalities.

Bridging the digital divide, whilst also enabling circularity for electronics, is possible and brings multiple positive outcomes. It overcomes one of the main barriers to digital inclusion and reduces the amount of e-waste generated. Our interviews showed it is a material business opportunity with tangible possibilities for cross-sector creative collaboration.

This report shares insights and actions that businesses, governments, and civil society organisations can take together. If taken seriously, these activities will improve the lives of digitally disadvantaged people and contribute to business goals for positive social impact.

Read more

Catch up on the launch event