Let’s Click on Romania is a social and circular economy project designed by Ateliere Fara Frontiere (AFF) to reduce the digital divide in education in Romania by providing schools and children in vulnerable areas with the necessary refurbished digital infrastructure to bridge the gap and develop digital skills. Within this vision, AFF also work towards supporting people seeking to enter the job market. Ultimately, their goal is creating equal access to education and opportunities for developing life-long skills. The project has three focuses:
- Inclusion and job creation
Challenges: waste management and the digital divide
The Let’s Click on Romania project emerged out of two separate situations. First was the challenge that Romania faces in creating a sustainable waste management strategy for electrical and electronic equipment. In Romania, a lot of electronic equipment and electrical waste (WEEE) is being disposed of with other residual wastes – or burned in open fields by illegal WEEE collectors, which has a negative impact on the air quality we inhale. Second, was the digital divide created, highlighted and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic highlighted the digital divide globally, and the lack of access to digital technologies and infrastructures that many communities – especially rural – face.
Let’s Click on Romania realised that while many computers were being disposed of illegally – rural communities and over 1 million children could not access online classes because they didn’t have access to an IT device. Out of this came a social and circular economy workshop that would address both issues, while also tackling a third: inclusion and job creation.
Inclusion and job creation
All economic activities within Let’s Click on Romania hires people who are having difficulties entering the labour market due to past or current hardships. They are hired for two years by educlick, and during this time are supported in their socio-professional development. Additionally, Let’s Click on Romania offers all employees support with therapists and social counsellors. The project is designed to create an environment which empowers them and helps them develop skills and self-esteem to join the labour market.
Who are the beneficiaries?
- Teachers and students in Romania from vulnerable background, without digital/IT infrastructure at school.
- Vulnerable workers looking to integrate the job market.
- Since the war in Ukraine brought refugees to Romania, the programme has been adapted to help them adapt to Romania with the help of counsellors who speak Ukrainian or Russian.
Why is this a good practice?
The Covid-19 highlighted and exacerbated the digital divide – demonstrating and worsening the inequalities in access to digital technologies. Not only that, but the pandemic increased poverty and widened inequalities, creating a ‘job crisis’.
When Let’s Click for Romania launched to address these issue – the number of schools interested in participating was higher than expected. Initially, the project received over 350 applications from schools or other educational organisation. This demonstrates a clear demand from the community for this kind of initiative – and the fact that it was extended to 2021 and 2022 out of demand demonstrates just how successful and necessary this initiative was.
Since 2020, the project has supported over 450 schools, including 80,000 children and teachers with over 8,000 refurbished computers. Additionally, 300 marginalised adults were hired within their socio-professional integration programme – out of which 50% successfully entered the job market afterwards. Through the process of refurbishing IT devices – rather than disposing of them badly or illegally – Let’s Click on Romania reduced CO2 emissions by 1,152,831kg. Through various campaigns via social media and news outlet, they have raised awareness on the negative impacts of badly disposing of devices and the benefits of refurbishing amongst companies and organisations. The fact that the project was extended to 2021 and 2022 demonstrates that it was addressing a clear demand within Romania, and just how successful it was.
While the project was initially created to address a short-term issue: providing children with a device to connect to their online classes – Let’s Click on Romania took into account the long-term by ensuring that the computers provided to the children would be returned to the school.
The project aims to continue growing and scaling up. For 2023, they have prepared another 4,000 computers for donation. They also want to expand the services they provide/cover by including the refurbishment of other equipment such as printers and projectors, that are crucial in the digital education infrastructure.