Tech Angels get cash boost after £20,000 of IT equipment stolen

Man stood with a laptop in front of a smashed windowStorage unit where 40 laptops were kept was broken into in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A GoFundMe page is raising funds for laptops, tablets and computers in response to a raid on a storage unit in which 40 laptops were stolen .

Leeds Tech Angels set up a GoFundMe last week in an effort to recover from the loss of around £20,000 worth of IT equipment earmarked for disadvantaged children and young people.

Its thought the 40 laptops were stolen early on Wednesday morning, with the West Yorkshire police still investigating.

The fundraising campaign, set up 3 days ago by Ben McKenna from Solidaritech, a collaborator of Tech Angels, hit their £10,000 target in a day and surpassed £20,000 over the weekend.

“It has been a crazy week”, says McKenna, who is surprised but thankful for the response the fundraiser has had. “We have turned a negative situation into a real positive one”, he added.

“The point of Tech Angels was to get tech into the hands of children and young people in the most deprived neighbourhoods in Leeds”, he continues.

Rob Greenland from Zero Waste Leeds discusses how they help spread the word about Tech Angels.

The referral organisation was set up following the second national lockdown in November in an effort to prevent struggling families from becoming digitally impoverished, by providing re-purposed technology and signposting of helpful services.

McKenna, who comes from a disadvantaged background himself, highlights the importance having access to technology has, saying “the only thing that ever really gave me opportunities in life was the fact that I could use technology”.

The devices which were stolen had their hard drives and SSD drives removed which means they are essentially useless which McKenna described as “amusing” but “galling”.

“Those 40 devices were donated, they were wiped, they were ready to be repurposed”, says Claire Garside, volunteer at Digital Access West Yorkshire, co-collaborator on the Tech Angels project.

The robbery meant distribution of this crucial technology was “going to be weeks delayed”, Garside continues, but “now we are looking at how many devices we can give to young people which is incredible”.

The fundraiser gained real traction when Leeds Utd forward, Patrick Bamford, donated the shirt he scored his 100th career goal in to be given away to a random donator, to encourage people to give to the cause.

The funds will help Tech Angels maintain their donations at over 100 a week. On Friday alone, 45 laptops were given to teachers to distribute to children before a further 20 were donated over the weekend.

“I think were going to smash the target on the project”, says McKenna, “I just wish we didn’t have to be burgled”.

The organisation also provides support by signposting useful services such as free data plans for those who can’t afford additional data charges.

“If we are talking about (digital) poverty then its device and its data and its also space”, says Garside, “if the adults need to work then we tend to find that they can only start work after 3pm” because they are prioritising their children’s education.

Garside also states that “we are building new relationships between communities and industry” in the shape of a national network of digital access schemes. 

“Our hope is we can grow that movement and strengthen those links with organisations around the country”, added Garside.

Tech Angels are supported by Leeds City Council, Ahead Partnership and Zero Waste Leeds.

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