PCs for People, MHTA, member feature, Minnesota High Tech Association, Minnesota Tech Association, MNTech Having reliable access to the internet is essential in today’s online-centric society. For those in our community who struggle to find that connection, PCs for People is there, bringing a holistic approach and providing computers, internet, digital learning opportunities, and tech support.

For 22 years, this Minnesota-based non-profit has helped low-income individuals benefit from the life changing influence of computers and mobile internet. In 2019, PCs for People won a Tekne award for community impact. They’re also a proud member of the Minnesota High Tech Association.

Rebecca Duvick is the Business Development Manager at PCs for People. To help highlight her non-profit and the work they do, Duvick graciously agreed to talk with us and share some of their recent wins, aspirations and goals within our wider tech community.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Hello Rebecca. Tell us about PCs for People. What makes you, “you?”
Duvick:
PCs for People has been a driving force behind digital inclusion efforts across the US. We are a self-sustainable nonprofit organization with a mission to provide affordable computers and internet, low-cost computer repairs, and no-cost digital education. We fund our mission by providing secure, responsible electronics recycling for businesses and use the proceeds and equipment to provide the life changing benefits of digital access.

Let’s talk about what’s new and exciting at PCs for People. Are there any initiatives, projects, or products that you’re currently celebrating?
Duvick:
We are very excited about our growth. In 2019, PCs for People responsibly recycled 1.8 million pounds of technology, 22,633 computers were distributed to low-income individuals and nonprofits, and 11,005 new homes connected to internet. The families served had an average annual income of $15,070 for a family of 3 and 49% had never owned a home computer.

To put that in perspective, that’s a year over year increase of 700,000 pounds of recycling and over 7,000 more families served by receiving a computer!

We’re also moving the needle in the low income community. For the first time in 2019 we dropped below 50% of families having never owned a home computer. Families who participate in our low cost internet program on average see a 15% increase in income in the first year.  We have a long way to go but these positive outcomes confirm we are making a difference.

Wow! That’s amazing progress, congratulations! Collaboration in our community is key and often helps us achieve our goals quicker. What goals are you working towards and who are you partnering with to make it all happen?
Duvick:
Collaboration is indeed the key. We partner with local schools, city officials and community activists across the US to hold distribution events bringing technology and offering digital literacy opportunities.  In addition we have shipped technology to income qualified recipients in all 50 states and Puerto Rico

Our goal is simple but lofty – to end the digital divide, meaning that everyone in the United States would have access to online resources.

In order to meet our goals we need to substantially increase the businesses utilizing us for their electronics recycling.  Every business needs this service and today we are working with over 1500 businesses across all industries and much of the country.

I’d also like to add that contrary to our name we are much more than PCs, in fact we accept a wide variety of electronics for our recycling program which provides opportunity for businesses that lease their PCs to be involved in our program for their non-leased assets.

Let’s talk about the connections that you’d like to make. Who in our tech community would you like to speak to, work with or learn from?
Duvick:
We’d love to see collaboration with every MHTA member – every business needs electronics recycling and our secure, responsible, free service has the added value of meeting an important need in our community.

That said, a constant need in our program is laptops.  With the ability of our recipients to receive low cost internet, the demand for laptops often out paces our supply.

What MHTA resources, events or initiatives are you looking to tap into? Do you have any favorites from the past?
Duvick:
We are grateful for the community that is MHTA and the opportunities to connect and learn from the business members. We were honored to be recognized with a Tekne award in 2019 and have benefited from the community awareness it has generated.

On a personal note, the Lunch and Learns, annual conference and CIO panel have been great sources of education and connection to the MHTA community.

How does MHTA impact you and companies/ orgs like yours?
Duvick:
MHTA has been a great partner in educating us on the local business community; connecting us with like-minded organizations and helping us share our mission.

What can you tell us about the future of PCs for People? What changes do you want to make, within our community? Who do you want to impact and why?
Duvick:
To be blunt, we need every business to collaborate with us on their electronics recycling as the need outpaces our supply.  In 2019 nearly 50% of our recipients had never owned a home computer – we’d welcome the opportunity to proactively market to low income families to make sure everyone knows about our service, today we wouldn’t be able to meet the need.

Is there anything else that you’d like to mention that we haven’t covered already?
Duvick:
Yes actually there is, I want the business community to know that they can trust us with their data and electronics recycling.  Sometimes we encounter a perception that nonprofit is “less than” for profit business.  We take our responsibility very seriously and have invested in certifications that meet or exceed those of our for profit counterparts.

We are eternally grateful for all those who have supported us and look forward to connecting with those who are just learning about us!

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If you’re interested in connecting with PCs for People or would like to help their cause, you can email Rebecca at rduvick@pcsforpeople.com.

Looking for more ways to connect with Minnesota’s tech leaders? Reach out to MHTA’s Director of Membership and Sponsorship, Ray Hoover at rhoover@mhta.org.