Bridging the digital divide: Deloitte21 program Close the Gap
By Olivier Vanden Eynde - July 18, 2011
In 2003, I founded Close the Gap International, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to bridge the digital divide by providing refurbished computers and information technology (IT) equipment to educational programs in developing, and more recently, in developed countries. Our objective is to improve the lives of underserved young people by providing them access to IT equipment, and by extension, computer literacy skills and information via the Internet that they would not otherwise have access to.
In the industrialized world, computers are replaced every three to four years, meaning that companies are increasingly looking for sustainable ways to replace their used devices. At the same time, millions of computers are needed, particularly in developing countries. Recognizing this cycle, Close the Gap created a win-win situation. By supplying developing countries with high-quality, refurbished IT equipment that’s donated by companies in Western countries, Close the Gap creates practical, social and sustainable solutions that enable people to bring about a true change in their lives through the use of IT.
Through 2010, Close the Gap collected more than 160,000 computers from donors in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands. These devices are being used in learning centers in sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia, Latin America, and also more recently in employability programs in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
How is Close the Gap impacting young people’s lives?
It is estimated that each week, at least 1,000,000 young people use computers re-purposed through Close the Gap. The computers are installed in educational programs that support students, young entrepreneurs, and other social services programs. These young adults are afforded the opportunity to develop computer literacy skills, and broaden their education and access to information.
To make this blog more tangible for you, here are some facts and figures from 2010:
- Close the Gap received more than 16,000 IT assets, and 15,360 computers were installed across the globe
- 114 educational and other nonprofit projects in developing countries received 11,190 assets
- 158 projects in poverty-stricken regions of developed countries received 4,170 assets to support disadvantaged youth and young adults who face challenges in the job market. These computers will help them to access training and research job opportunities.
What about Deloitte and Close the Gap?
Deloitte Belgium and Deloitte Netherlands supported Close the Gap for many years. Deloitte professionals work in close collaboration with the Close the Gap team; they provide internal audits, accountancy services, tax advice and legal services, supporting the transparent and professional use of the funds raised through sponsors and donors. Deloitte Netherlands has also provided hardware and financial support. Deloitte’s assistance has been instrumental to Close the Gap’s success, and has positively contributed to our sustainable and controlled growth.
These successes would not have been possible without the ongoing assistance we received from Deloitte member firms and professionals. The volunteer hours, equipment, and monies donated have enabled us to successfully scale our programs, thus benefitting more young people. We’re committed to continuing to fulfill our—and Deloitte member firms’ ambition—to advance young people’s 21st-century skills-readiness globally.
If you are interested to learn more or get involved, contact DTTL Global Corporate Responsibility.
Olivier Vanden Eynde is a senior manager with Deloitte Belgium. He is founder and managing director of Close the Gap International, a global nonprofit foundation that provides computers and IT equipment to bridge the digital divide.