Digital inclusion thanks to Digital for Youth

07 June 2024

Through Digital for Youth, DNS Belgium aims to boost the digital inclusion of young people. The laptops we collect through Digital for Youth, restore to like-new condition and distribute among youth organisations make a huge difference to young people. This is apparent from the 2023 impact study.

DNS Belgium takes many initiatives to boost digital inclusion in Belgium and Digital for Youth has the most impact. In 2019, together with Close the Gap, we established non-profit organisation Digital for Youth with the aim of reducing digital exclusion among underprivileged young people.

To achieve that goal, Digital for Youth collects discarded laptops from companies and has them restored to like-new condition. Through project calls, youth organisations are able to submit a file to the King Baudouin Foundation (KBS). The KBS decides which organisations receive laptops based on this file. 

The impact study shows that Digital for Youth continued to make a significant contribution to the digital inclusion of vulnerable young people in Belgium in 2022.

To check whether Digital for Youth's campaigns are effective and whether we really achieve our social objectives, we launched a study last year to measure the impact of our campaigns. In 2023, together with Eva Wuyts of UCLL, we conducted a survey with the 70 organisations that received 1,183 laptops and 39,235 euros in financial support in 2022.

Based on how youth organisations use the laptops, Eva distinguishes three routes towards change in the impact study: 

  • Youth organisations organise digital activities with the laptops such as homework support and courses.
  • They make the laptops available for free to young people, for example in a computer room.
  • They loan the laptops to young people, who can use them at home freely. Most organisations do this for a specific period of time, usually six months. 

Whichever of these three routes the organisations take, the impact for both the young people and the organisations themselves are significant.

Increase in digital skills and (self)confidence 

Of the 63 organisations that participated in our survey, 68% used the donated laptops for supervised digital activities. This primarily involves homework or school support and communication with the school (23%) In as many organisations, the donated laptops are used to write resumes, to look or apply for jobs. 

Some organisations (16%) set up digital basic skills and programming, robotics or website-building workshops. Programming in particular was very popular in 2022. 2,058 young people spent more than 32,000 hours programming on 263 laptops.

These activities help young people develop the necessary digital skills. Obviously, these initiatives reduce the digital divide, but only time will tell how much. Having said that, the organisations have picked up signs pointing in that direction. Young people have primarily shown more (digital) autonomy and an increased confidence (24%). 

Social integration and self-esteem

Our survey showed that developing digital skills has major secondary effects for young people. Because their (digital) confidence increases, they start helping themselves sooner when working on laptops which boosts their self-esteem. 

And thanks to the laptops they also have more contact with peers through social media and games. In 16% of the cases, youth organisations noticed an increase in social inclusion of young people. 

7% of respondents show an increase in social integration. Laptops give young people access to digital information and allows them to take part in digital society full-time. By helping young people find work, their chances in the labour market also increase significantly. 

Impact on the whole family 

31 organisations made 378 laptops available to young people in 2022, usually for a period of six months. Having a laptop also had a positive impact on families. The whole family has easier access to digital information and online administration when a laptop is available which boosts the digital inclusion within the family.

Impact on organisations and environment

Laptop donations not only have a positive impact on young people and their immediate surroundings. Laptops also mean a lot for youth organisations.

Many indicated that laptop donations allow them to professionalise their operations and increase their ambitions in terms of digital inclusion. They expanded their offering for young people and reached a wider audience. By reaching out to more young people, the organisations got an even better understanding of young people's needs and the problem of digital exclusion. 

All this resulted in a strengthening of existing partnerships and new collaborations, thus indirectly increasing the impact of what Digital for Youth does. 

And finally, laptop donations also have a financial and ecological impact in that organisations bought 205 fewer laptops in 2022 resulting in considerable financial savings. At least 65 tonnes less CO2 was emitted as well because no new laptops were purchased and discarded laptops were given a second life. 

The impact study shows that Digital for Youth continued to make a significant contribution to the digital inclusion of vulnerable young people in Belgium in 2022. Through educational programmes, school and labour market support, we help young people develop important digital skills and fully participate in modern society. We remain committed to this important goal and aim to reach and support even more young people in their digital journey.

With this article, we support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.