A new Hamilton County organization is trying to connect low-income individuals to the technology they need to apply for jobs, take online courses and create resumes.
Eight members of the Hamilton County Leadership Academy’s class of 2016 partnered to create the Hamilton County Technology Exchange, which collects used laptops or desktops and provides the equipment to those in need.
The program targets residents who live above the federal poverty line, but whose incomes don't cover the basic cost of living, which is known as Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, or ALICE.
In Hamilton County, about 17 percent of households meet those standards, and another 4 percent are below that level or considered in poverty.
Nick Smarrelli, CEO of GadellNet Consulting Services and a member of the HCLA group that started the technology exchange program, said he realized after listening to a presentation from Good Samaritan Network and United Way that access to technology is a barrier for individuals looking for jobs or trying to attend school.
Without a computer, individuals can’t respond to emails from prospective employers, access online job boards or enroll in higher education courses.
“Those are the little things that, for me, I take for granted,” Smarrelli said.
He also knew that most companies were replacing their computers about every three years, so donating the equipment could be an alternative to recycling.
The group received 34 donated laptops and desktop computers from seven businesses this year. Employees with GadellNet then wiped the data off the machines. With the help of monetary donations, Microsoft Office Suite software was purchased and installed on the donated computers.
Through partnerships with nine not-for-profits, 27 computers have been donated so far and the remainder are expected to be distributed soon.
Smarrelli said he has commitments from companies to receive another 50 laptops over the next four months, and that number could increase.
The group is hoping to continue the program either with participants in next year’s HCLA class or outside help. Hamilton County Technology Exchange could also eventually secure not-for-profit status and work with individuals directly instead of coordinating with other organizations.
In the meantime, Smarrelli said, he’ll lead the program and accept donations. He’s looking for laptops about three or four years old in good working condition that are equipped with Microsoft Windows 7 or higher.
“No one is facilitating that supply chain from corporations to individuals and then helping manage the security and risks in between,” Smarrelli said. “There’s not a lot of work to do, but the impact is pretty big.”