Donating surplus computer equipment to help bridge the "digital divide" makes good business sense, yet it remains an uncommon practice within many corporations due to a variety of concerns. These concerns include data security, environmental liability, software licensing transfers and the need for technical support, among others. With the right approach, however, these barriers can be overcome. Donating unused technology can be the most strategic disposition option available to corporate IT departments.
Corporate donations of used PCs can address a serious problem in our society: digital exclusion. At the end of 2009, 28 million American households did not own a computer. People with computers, Internet access and the skills to use both earn more and are better students, consumers and employees. They're also more involved citizens. They put the commerce in e-commerce while reducing the cost of serving them. In a digital world where pulpwood-based telephone directories and newspapers are endangered species, how will customers find us without Google?
There is tremendous potential for businesses to address this problem by donating a fraction of the 40 million PCs that businesses replace each year (of which, 75 percent are four years old or less, meaning most have plenty of useful life remaining if properly refurbished). Yet only three percent of replaced corporate PCs are donated and, unfortunately, many of those are essentially dumped on charities without proper testing, repairs and legally-licensed software.