The need for computers and technological devices has never been greater. But the prices have never been so high.
Thus, the non-profit organization based in Wilkinsburg computer range launched its first online store of affordable computers and tech devices last month after two decades in business.
Founded by Dave Sevick — who remains the organization’s executive director — in 2001 following his experience as a certified Apple computer consultant, Computer Reach specializes in refurbishing technology and related equipment to make them accessible to everyone at a lower cost. Since then, the organization has added computer training and support programs for people of all ages. Computer Reach also runs a team of what it calls “digital navigators” – people who help provide internet connectivity, devices, digital skills development and ongoing technical support. (It’s a digital access term we’ve heard in other markets as well.)
“Our number one goal, whenever we receive a device donation, is to give that device a second life and return it to someone who could actually use it,” Computer Reach Operations Manager said. Kyle Spangler noted. “Over the past two years, we have distributed over 6,000 devices, especially throughout 2020 and 2021, with COVID highlighting the real need for technology. We have long advocated that technology is no longer a luxury within society – it is a necessity – and we truly believe this, so we are doing our best to bridge this digital divide with many of our different programs. .
Although the organization is based in Pittsburgh, Computer Reach distributes refurbished devices to people across the country and beyond, shipping a total of more than 11,000 devices to 47 states and 41 countries, according to the website. organisation. Much of this work has not been done by Computer Reach’s retail computer business itself, but rather through programs or partnerships with other organizations and institutions. But through a proof-of-concept project in 2018, Spangler said the organization found people were willing to come on their own and buy devices at discounted prices. These efforts turned into a curbside store advertised on the organization’s website after the pandemic began, which eventually turned into a plan to launch an online store that could reach people. on a national level.
“So now we have a full virtual store platform on our website, where we can list an unlimited number of devices,” Spangler said, adding that customers can go through the full checkout process online, which allowed Computer Reach to offer free shipping on all of its devices. Even better, he said, is that the online store removes the transportation hurdle that the old curbside pickup option required, allowing even more people to easily obtain affordable devices. .
Although the technology for sale on the Computer Reach website is not free, the prices are well below current retail values for similar devices; a Dell Inspiron 11 laptop is listed for $190 while a mid-2011 21.5″ Apple iMac is listed for $275. There’s nothing on the site that’s for sale for more than $300, Spangler said. Open since late January, the organization made its first sale through the site last week and saw an increase in traffic from people putting items in their baskets. For the rest of the year, Spangler said Computer Reach hopes to launch an in-person retail store that can serve as a help desk and agency for local access to technology.
Along with the non-profit organization’s efforts to launch the online store, Computer Reach also recently announced a new partnership with AT&T and Digitity providing more than 2,000 refurbished computers and technology devices to students and families in Pittsburgh over the next two years. It’s part of an effort by AT&T to commit $2 billion to promote digital equity in broadband affordability, affordability and adoption. The partnership also comes at a time of unprecedented state and federal focus on investing in closing the digital divide.
“We are proud to work with AT&T and Digitunity to help tackle the digital divide head-on in neighborhoods around Pittsburgh and throughout western Pennsylvania,” Sevick said in a statement. “Through our collaboration with AT&T, we will provide much-needed computers, hands-on digital literacy classes, and in-home digital navigation services to help make a measurable difference in the lives of those most in need in our community.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by Heinz endowments. -30-