- The City of San Diego may partner with nonprofit San Diego Futures Foundation to refurbish and redistribute end-of-life city computers back to some of the nearly 30,000 city households that lack one.
- The San Diego City Council's Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee unanimously approved the proposal, which would allow the Futures Foundation to refurbish and distribute more than 2,200 city computers that are ready to be recycled. Currently, the city uses a contracted vendor for free electronic recycling services, but that contract is expected to wind down within two years, the city said.
- As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) upends traditional living and forces remote work and learning, having a personal computer is "no longer a luxury but a lifeline," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement. The ordinance is expected to go to the full council in the coming weeks.
The United States' challenging digital divide has been highlighted further during the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions forced to work, learn and receive healthcare advice remotely — often over poor or non-existent internet connections. While this partnership does not specifically address this lack of connectivity that sometimes dogs even the largest and wealthiest of cities, it does tackle the lack of devices citywide.
San Diego is not alone in its struggle. The City of Baltimore, for instance, has been urged to combat its digital divide problem by prioritizing the delivery of devices to low-income households. And while libraries have looked to fill the device gap, that has been made more difficult by the coronavirus, which forced many libraries close their doors.
While this new partnership could ease this tech gap, it also could be more environmentally friendly than relying on traditional recycling services. City officials noted that shifts in the global recycling market could mean its current program of contracting for such services might be in jeopardy, and with 800 desktop computers reaching their end-of-life in the city each year, this partnership could make a dent in the device gap.
"With the current contract nearing expiration, this partnership would offer an innovative solution for the City to address digital inclusion and avoid potential costs with recycling this equipment," Jonathan Behnke, the city's chief information officer, said in a statement. "This technology could help someone who is struggling right now to work remotely, access government services, use telehealth services, go to class and much more."