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With more than 41,000 attendees gathering at the Alamodome to witness the University of Texas at San Antonio football team win its first Conference USA championship, 18,000 individuals participating in the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, and holiday soirées in full swing this December, in-person events are increasingly returning to the city. San Antonians are safely reuniting post-pandemic.

Given this shift, many in our community are pivoting away from remote working and distance learning activities. Yet with threats of new variants in an ever-changing environment, our reliance on technology becomes further entrenched in critical day-to-day activities such as telemedicine, virtual connection, education and employment.

This lasting dependence on technology continues to deepen the digital divide already present in San Antonio, escalating pre-existing social inequalities that prevent the most vulnerable populations from accessing and participating in today’s digital world. Without access to broadband internet, digital devices and the skills needed to leverage technology, individuals, students and families remain disconnected to future success.

The City of San Antonio and Bexar County formalized their work on digital inclusion during the COVID-19 crisis and have supported the development of SA Digital Connects, a new nonprofit focused on implementing a Community Digital Equity Plan to help San Antonio and greater Bexar County become a nationwide leader in business, workforce development and economic growth through digital inclusion. The Community Digital Equity plan has quantified the size of the local digital divide as being 130,000 households without broadband internet access, 65,000 households without connected devices and 130,000 households lacking basic digital skills. This plan prioritizes action to address these unserved and underserved households.

Goodwill San Antonio’s Electronics Recycling and Technology Access Program was established to help bridge this divide and promote digital inclusion by responsibly refurbishing commercial and residential donations of laptops, desktops and all-in-one computers for reuse, empowering the community to use the devices to apply for jobs, educate children and manage health care.

The program is dependent on donations of computers and related electronic equipment. However, ramifications stemming from the pandemic such as supply chain delays and unprecedented labor shortages have impacted inventories and increased the cost to acquire equipment. Such challenges have also affected Goodwill San Antonio, with the number of laptops donated pre-pandemic versus post-pandemic decreasing by 41 percent.

Given this reduction in donations contrasted by the continued demand for computers, particularly laptops, Goodwill San Antonio is calling on the goodwill of businesses, academic institutions, government bodies, community partners and residents of San Antonio to help connect neighbors in need by donating gently used computers and electronic devices this holiday season.

Computer donations can be dropped off directly to the Goodwill Electronics Store located at 5722 Walzem Rd. or to any conveniently located Goodwill store or donation station in the area. The store is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m., and staff is available to answer questions by phone at (210) 271-8806 or email at ElectronicStore@Goodwillsa.org.

As the only R2 Certified Electronics Recycler in San Antonio offering public drop-offs of equipment, the program offers data security services to provide donors with the security and peace of mind to know their personal information is responsibly removed from all electronics prior to being refurbished and made available for reuse.

We cannot be stagnant nor complacent in letting our disconnected neighbors suffer from digital inequity. With a pre-existing digital divide now exacerbated by the pandemic, digital inclusion is a necessity now more than ever. To strengthen San Antonio in 2022, we must commit to provide the resources and tools necessary for all within our community to have equal opportunities. By donating a computer, you help change the life of a family member, neighbor or stranger by connecting them to technology, and more importantly, to their families, and a future with endless opportunities. Donate laptops to Goodwill San Antonio’s wish list this holiday season, and help us serve our purpose today and every day of the year: fighting poverty and creating opportunity.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

If you or someone you know needs help with using computers or navigating the internet, please reach out to our Good Careers Centers to sign up for our free digital literacy classes today. For more information, call (210) 271-8880.

Mark McKeever

Mark McKeever serves as president and chief operating officer for Goodwill San Antonio Business Services.