DNS Belgium founded Digital for Youth together with the non-profit association Close the Gap vzw in order to promote digital inclusion in our country. Digital for Youth collects discarded laptops from companies, has them refurbished to like-new condition, and then distributes them to youth organisations via project calls from the King Baldwin Foundation.
A recent impact study commissioned by DNS Belgium shows that the laptops distributed by Digital for Youth make a real difference in the lives of young people and have a major impact on youth organisations.
Why an impact study?
DNS Belgium's mission is to make the Internet in Belgium accessible to everyone. That means we make every effort to promote digital inclusion. Digital for Youth is the most important initiative in on that front.
'DNS Belgium invests about 80% of all its resources for CSR activities in Digital for Youth. It makes sense that we should want to know about the return on such an important investment,' says Arnaud Recko, sustainability coordinator at DNS Belgium and board member of Digital for Youth. 'When we talk about return on investment, it is primarily in terms of social impact, and we have developed measurement tools in cooperation with Eva Wuyts of the UCLL to that end.'
Conducted in 2022, the impact study surveyed all youth organisations that received laptops through Digital for Youth in 2021. 'If you have a social purpose like Digital for Youth, you also have to gauge what changes you bring in your target group. It is not a matter of how many laptops you hand out, but of what really changes,' Wuyts explains. 'You can set the goal as an organisation to promote digital inclusion and then set out to collect and distribute laptops. But the big question then is how one will take care of the other.'
Laptops are changing the lives of young people
An initial conclusion of the impact study is that the donated laptops make a substantial difference to young people and really change their lives. A direct consequence of the actions of Digital for Youth is that young people develop vital digital skills. Many youth organisations actually use the laptops to organise digital safety and media literacy workshops, programming classes or digital content creation.
‘The young people clearly felt valued by what they are learning, both within their families and with their friends at school. They felt part of society and no longer as outcasts.’
As many organisations also use the laptops for homework guidance and support, young people are more in tune with their schoolwork. Participation in education improves, as do their school results, thereby reducing school dropout rates. The same goes for labour market guidance, where young people see their chances in the labour market increase.
Thanks to laptops, internet access and new digital skills, young people can connect more easily with peers and discover new interests and untapped talents. The survey shows that their self-confidence increases and they develop a sense of belonging.
Some organisations choose to give the laptops to young people for home use. In such cases, we see that the arrival of a laptop has positive effects on the whole family. They can participate in the digital society, contact government institutions and keep their records in order electronically.
Laptops have a major impact on youth organisations
The laptops donated by Digital for Youth not only have a big impact on the lives of the young people who get or use them; they also bring positive changes for the youth organisations themselves.
Three quarters of the organisations surveyed say that the donation has helped them achieve their digital inclusion goals. The laptops enabled them to expand their offerings and activities for young people. Some are thereby also reaching a wider audience.
‘We were able to develop a lending service and to expand and strengthen our offer thanks to the laptops. We use them also for our media education workshops, which enables us to reach a wider and more diversified target audience.'
A wider offer and a bigger audience mean not only organisational growth but, for many organisations, also greater visibility and credibility, which in turn make it easier for them to enter into partnerships, weigh in on policy, have more impact themselves.
To recapitulate, we can safely say that the results of the study and the social impact that Digital for Youth is having are very positive. Whereas at the start of the impact measurement we asked ourselves, together with Eva Wuyts, whether we were also achieving our social goal by distributing the laptops, we can now confirm our statement with data that this is actually the case.