Hundreds of laptops donated to tackle digital divide

A local resident receives a laptop from Reverend Rosemia Brown, St James Church in Clapton.

A local resident receives a laptop from Reverend Rosemia Brown, St James The Great church in Clapton. - Credit: Hackney & Islington Citizens

A Hackney and Islington organisation has collected 202 laptops for households in need. 

Hackney and Islington Citizens, a branch of the community organising charity Citizens UK, is tackling the digital divide in the boroughs after receiving £20,000 in cash and used laptops from tech giant Amazon, which has headquarters in Shoreditch. 

The community group collected 202 laptops and aims to give away pre-paid WiFi dongles to improve internet access for home-schooling children, students struggling to access online learning and elderly isolating people.  

Jaysherie, a mother of two home-schooling children who preferred not to use her last name, said: “We just want to say a big thank you for our laptops.”

Last November, Hackney and Islington Citizens launched a video letter on LinkedIn to several tech companies headquartered in Shoreditch.

The video highlighted stories where the internet has helped keep family and community life together, but also highlighted those who do not have access to digital devices. 

Anthony Harmer, a member of Hackney and Islington Citizens and chief executive of ELATT, a digital skills education charity, added: “Many of our students have found the last few months really tough.

"We’ve worked hard to ensure student access to laptops and the internet, keeping education attainment high.

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"But there is still a significant need for laptops and internet in our communities."

Hackney Pensioner Convention Group Members

Hackney Pensioners Convention at Our Lady and St Joseph's Church Hall, Balls Pond Road in February 2020. Pictured (from left to right: treasurer Jonathan, secretary Nigel Gansell, Julia, Patrick Murphy and Megan Ifill) - Credit: Holly Chant

Nigel Gansell, 80, who has been affected greatly by the digital divide during the pandemic, is just one Hackney resident who could potentially benefit from the Hackney and Islington Citizens project if it were able to expand.

He said: "I’m just totally marooned here."

Nigel is the secretary of Hackney Pensioners Convention, a local branch of the National Pensioners Convention, which campaigns for pensioners' rights.

He, like many of the convention's members, does not currently have access to the internet or own a smart-phone or laptop. He was reliant on now-closed libraries to print off documents to send by "snail mail".

For organisations like the Hackney Pensioners Convention, holding a meeting is "out of the question", he said: "We can’t do much as a group, we punch above our weight but we are rather limited in what we can do. 

"We all haven’t met since a year ago. I hope we have still got a full membership."

To donate laptops or money, email Citizens UK on