Many people probably do not realize the luxury they have for computers and laptops. Growing up going to a Catholic School in the 90s, a computer was necessary – at least as I reached middle school. Everything had to be done in Microsoft programs and while the school allowed access to these computers, sometimes work needed to be completed at home. For me, I was fortunate enough to have access to a computer. However, not everyone gets this luxury.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, 15% of U.S. adults do not use the internet, and out of that number, 19% said they couldn’t afford it. And this is despite the many recent governments and social service programs built to encourage internet adoption. Fortunately, people have come together to form local and national organizations that will provide computers for free or at a low cost to low-income families.
For some programs, you need to be registered on government programs to prove your level of need; for others, a statement of family income will suffice. Here’s a look at the current programs offered:
1. Computer Technology Assistance Corps (CTAC)
CTAC is an organization that accepts donations of old computers, wipes out all data, and refurbishes them before reloading a new system and selling them at a nominal cost. It is New Hampshire-based but has contacts around the country.
It provides them to families receiving government or state assistance, and to registered nonprofits with a need.
2. Microsoft Registered Refurbishers
Microsoft set up a program specifically for the purpose of providing computer refurbishers with genuine Microsoft software for low-income families and charities.
Microsoft provides the software on a cost recovery basis to eligible applicants.
Computers with Causes is a national program providing computers to low-income families or to eligible groups.
You can fill out the request form for more information.
The On It Foundation is Florida-based and provides free computers to eligible applicants.
In addition to giving low-income families the equipment, it ensures that they can be used fully by giving training and Internet access.
Komputer4RKids runs a big volunteer program, picking up old computers and equipment and refurbishing them.
The items that are no use to the donation program are sent to a recycling facility.
6. With Causes
Another nonprofit organization that takes in old computers, checks them out, and make sure that they are distributed to families who need them and to nonprofit organizations.
Not so much for the individual, World Computer Exchange is dedicated to providing computers and Internet access to youth in developing countries. It places computers in community settings where they can be used the most.
It does this by partnering with groups, such as governments, schools, libraries, NGOs, etc. who have identified a need.
This is an example of a local program, in this case in Riverside, California. It shows how nonprofits, local businesses, and government can all work together to make computers available to the needy.
This program offers free computers to families which earn less than $45,000, a very low income in California.
Free Computer Access
Many libraries have computers available that you can use if you are a library member, although you may be limited to a one-hour session at the time to ensure that everyone has access.
You can also ask at community centers and even schools whether they allow any public access to computers. Although if you are reading this, you have some sort of access to computers and the Internet, it may be borrowed access from a friend or a library.
Check for Local Programs
Also, don’t forget that many states and local governments do have free or low-cost laptops and computers for low-income families. A quick internet search should show you these resources in your home state.
So be sure to check with your local organizations first if you are in need of free or cheap laptops and computers.
You should also keep an eye on Freecycle, an online network of communities, which brings together people who are offering free goods in your local area.
You can sign up for free to your local group, and see what is available.
You should also check out Craigslist. There are times when people do give out used computers either for free or for a very nominal price.
The bottom line: Computers are pretty essential in today’s world for both home, school, and career. While I cannot promise you will qualify for any of the above-mentioned programs, what I can say is – “What do you have to lose?”
If you have ever received a laptop for free – let us know your experience by sharing your own tip in a comment below!