October Connect Chicago Meetup Recap: Refurbished Devices

The digital divide in Chicago is not just about Internet access and access to digital learning opportunities. It’s also about hardware. Not every Chicagoan or Chicago household has the tools it needs to succeed in the digital age, even if the question of Internet access is in place.

Here is one piece of a longer infographic we published recently:


Some of Chicago’s households don’t have computing devices or, if they do, they rely exclusively on handheld devices. Imagine relying on a phone to apply to college, apply for jobs, or create content. A recent piece from Shorenstein also points out that mobile devices hold residents back when it comes to civic information and news consumption.

Device lending programs get computers into the hands of students and households who might not have had them before. Computer refurbishing programs also insert lower cost devices into our ecosystem and can help narrow technology access divides. Programs like PC Rebuilders & Refurbishers (PCRR) and FreeGeek Chicago take donated, used devices, refurbish them, and sell them for discounted rates. This can be an easier way for individuals and even institutions to get the hardware they need.

At our last Connect Chicago Meetup we explored these programs and also learned about how to buy refurbished devices — what certifications to look for, prices and quality to expect, and the overall benefits. Sarah Cade from PCRR led the discussion and created resources for digital inclusion practitioners and trainers across Chicago.

Here is Sarah’s presentation:

Sarah also shared PCRR’s “What Device is Right for You?” guide to help people just starting to invest in personal devices and technology.

All of the resources that Sarah has created will be incorporated onto the new Connect Chicago website, a page aggregating information on digital inclusion resources, stories, and programs in Chicago.

At the Meetup we learned that, in addition to churning refurbished devices for people and nonprofits, PCRR also tries to be inclusive in its employment and training. At the Meetup, we learned that about half of PCRR employees are ex-offenders.  


Below are pictures from the Connect Chicago Meetup:

Connect Chicago Meetup Oct 28, 2016: Computer Refurbishing in Chicago

More Connect Chicago Meetup resources:

Here is a video of the entire Meetup:

Thank you to all who joined us for this important conversation! The digital inclusion field in Chicago is a vibrant group of advocates and practitioners. We learn so much and leverage more resources when we work together. To join the Connect Chicago Meetup community, go to our Meetup page.

‘Tis the Season for Strategy

In December 2011, I arrived as the second employee of the Smart Chicago Collaborative bringing over 20 years of human service experience with me through the door. I was challenged and excited about being part of a new organization whose vast and innovative mission was to improve the lives of Chicago residents using technology. It has been 6 months since I transitioned into my role, as Interim Executive Director, and we’ve been busy. I’m very proud to lead and work with this super smart and competent team of all women, comprised of Sonja Marziano, Denise Linn, Leslie Durr, and Phaedra Studt. Time certainly flies and the work continues.

Smart Chicago Collaborative was created over 5 years ago by the City of Chicago, the Chicago Community Trust, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in response to the report The City that NetWorks. With this institutional positioning, Smart Chicago Collaborative has successfully served as a launch pad for innovation with great potential to influence the civic technology ecosystem in Chicago to increase access, skills, and data use. Our recent organizational evaluation identified two key recommendations: first, that, we refine our strategic role in relation to our fast-paced, ever-evolving technology ecosystem; and second, consistent with our role as a launch pad, that we identify and transition several of our promising innovations and projects into sustainable community-based opportunities to further fortify our ecosystem. The Smart Chicago Collaborative, utilizing our existing leadership and talent supported by our Advisory and Operations committees, will continue to digest the findings of our evaluation and align with Chicago’s existing economic development and smart city plans. Check back on our Smart Chicago Evaluation page as we share our progress and emerging ideas during this process.