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We’re constantly trading in our phones and laptops every few years for the latest update, but what if there was a way to give your old device a new lease of life?
With his new initiative Upcycled Tech, Sydney’s Sujan Selven is combining e-waste management with social impact.
“I was in Sri Lanka during lockdown last year and I saw how many students needed to study from home, but they didn’t have access to devices. Through Upcycled Tech, we wanted to collect old devices here in Australia that can really make a difference for schoolkids there,” he told Indian Link.
“We set up our first community centre in Jaffna in an existing preschool building, added a fibre optic Internet connection, and set up projectors and webcams. Pretty soon we had 54 students enrolled!”
In its first six months of operation, Upcycled Tech has already collected 500 devices and set up three learning centres, two in the Northern Province and one in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka.
“Did you know that only around 30 per cent of Sri Lankans have access to a connected device? During the pandemic, this made online learning hugely difficult for households. To me, it was imperative to provide technology solutions and education resources to combat this,” Sujan explained.
Upcycled Tech follows a simple four-step process. Old devices are collected from individuals and organisations, which need to be in working and good condition. Then, in partnership with one of Australia’s biggest data erasure and recovery centres Payam, they wipe sensitive data from the devices before it is shipped overseas.
The devices are donated to partners on ground, and when they have reached the end of their second lifecycle, they are properly disposed by one of Sri Lanka’s e-waste recyclers. This way, Upcycled Tech’s sustainable initiative utilises the 140,000+ tonnes of e-waste collecting in Australian landfills every year to begin bridging the digital divide.
Sujan grinned, “The feedback has been really great. Our work has been well-received by the schools in Sri Lanka, now there’s a lot of demand for these devices. We’re hoping to have upcycled 1,000 devices by the end of the year.”
A social impact entrepreneur and human rights advocate, he remains deeply passionate about the power of education to uplift communities.
“The ultimate goal is for every individual to have a device and internet connectivity. Today, digital literacy is a great way to create wider opportunities for the community and the country, and to improve lives,” he explained.
“These upcycled devices really are making a difference on the ground. For example, Sri Lankan artists have now been able to digitalise their designs on our upcycled tablets and sell them on Etsy.”
Some of Upcycle Tech’s featured device donors include Sydney Water, The Fred Hollows Foundation, and Medtronic. What’s next for the NSW organisation?
“We’ve recently partnered with a Perth university to broaden the scope in Australia. We’ve also partnered an organisation in Canada and Germany, who will be sending used devices to Sri Lanka,” Sujan shared.
“The hope, of course, is to gradually expand. We’d love to start these initiatives in other South Asian countries too.”
To donate your old devices, you can reach out via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call +61 421 832 255.
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