Digital exclusion increasingly tantamount to social exclusion. In a society that is rapidly digitising, this can cause young people to miss out on important opportunities at crucial points in their lives, such as at school or when looking for a job.
‘DNS Belgium wants to make the world more digital. So we too must do our bit for digital inclusion', says Philip Du Bois, general manager of DNS Belgium. ‘Digital for Youth is therefore a way to realise the mission of DNS Belgium.’
Corporate social responsibility
‘Ever since we launched Digital for Youth together with Close the Gap our intention has been to take long-term action to ensure that our youth, particularly the more vulnerable young people, are able to play a full part in the digital society,' says Philip.
Digital for Youth is one of the many initiatives launched by DNS Belgium on the corporate social responsibility (CSR) front. ‘This is one of many such initiatives, but obviously the most important in terms of impact and work intensity and at a financial level. In concrete terms, Digital for Youth represents around 80% of all the resources that we invest in all CSR activities'.
Intertwined for the time being
DNS makes a substantial financial contribution to ensure that Digital for Youth does not have to worry about its fixed costs. We moreover provide mainly expertise in communication, financial, legal and HR issues. Needless to say, we also contribute to the operation of the Board of Directors. And we make our office building available so that Digital for Youth does not have to pay rent.
‘Today, Digital for Youth and DNS Belgium are undeniably intertwined because we are in a start-up phase,’ says Philip. ‘But I don't necessarily see that interweaving continuing in the long term. We want Digital for Youth to be a strong and independent organisation that can fend for itself both in terms of manpower and knowledge as well as of financial strength and independence.’
Scarcity on the laptop market
Digital for Youth had set a target of collecting and distributing 6,000 laptops by 2021. That target was not achieved. ‘This year we ended up with just under 4,000. The second-hand laptop market is still very tight because of the difficulties in supplying new laptops.’
When companies cannot obtain new laptops, they naturally do not donate their old laptops to charity. This also affects the prices of second-hand laptops on the market. In that respect, it's a miracle that we got almost 15,000 laptops to refurbish and hand out in 2020.'
Philip fears the market will continue to be tight in 2022. ‘We have yet to see what that means for our ambitions in terms of number of laptops. On the other hand, there is a good chance that, in addition to the hardware, we will be offering young people educational content.
The difficult market notwithstanding, Philip looks back on the past year with pride. ‘We are very satisfied with our cooperation with the French-speaking Community, where we have delivered more than 2,000 laptops for French-speaking schools since December 2020. A thousand of these were for the nine municipalities that were hit hardest by the flooding this summer'.
For me, the best cases are of course those that I have visited myself. I am thinking of the visit to Ave Regina together with State Secretary Sami Mehdi following a large donation by the National Lottery.’
Ave Regina is an accredited care institution that provides care and support to young people and adults with mental disabilities and behavioural or emotional disorders. The donation will enable Ave Regina to set up a programming class. This was one of the projects that Digital for Youth financed with the donation of the National Lottery: