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InterConnection: Untangling Technology for Every Person in Seattle

By Wendy K. Leigh

The concept of “connecting” in Seattle these days has so many implications that it’s tempting to just “disconnect” entirely and hide under a rock somewhere. But let’s face it: We love cutting-edge technology and incorporating it into every crevice of our lives. The question popping up all over the city, however, is whether every person has equal access and a level digital playing field. Fortunately, the crew at InterConnection in Fremont has taken on the task of bridging that widening digital divide.

The nonprofit InterConnection store and website are both buzzing with high-tech promise for low-income families, making sure all Seattleites have an equal chance for survival amongst the fittest and finest when it comes to technology. No money for a laptop? No problem. Through the InterConnection network, low-income individuals and families, students, under-served communities and nonprofit organizations can acquire totally refurbished and decked-out computers at little cost, with no strings attached.

How It Works

InterConnection accepts donations of used computers, laptops, tablets and peripherals; updates and equips them with the latest software and hardware; and offers them for very low cost to those who qualify. The impressive part about this is the easy accessibility; you don’t have to endure miles of government red tape or apply through an official charity to benefit, according to Paul Fraser of InterConnection.

“Low-income individuals may obtain a computer by going to our online low-income and nonprofit site at connectall.org or by visiting our retail store at 1109 N. 35th Street in Fremont,” Fraser explains. “By providing evidence of  governmental assistance, they can qualify for laptops as low as $99, pre-loaded with Microsoft Office and Windows 10.” 

Not everyone who struggles to afford a laptop actually qualifies for government assistance, so InterConnection steps up to the plate on another level as well. Refurbished laptops, tablets, monitors and peripherals are also available to the general public at considerably reduced prices, compared to buying them new at standard retail outlets.

“Anyone may purchase from our retail store or online, with all proceeds going back into our mission of bridging the digital divide,” notes Fraser.

A Peace Corp volunteer teaches students basic computer skills using InterConnection computers.

A Peace Corp volunteer teaches students basic computer skills using InterConnection computers.

All items come with a warranty and preinstalled software. InterConnection also offers a mobile hotspot device and internet connection package for one low price, facilitating constant access to the web.

Tech Repair and Upgrades

Another crucial element to staying connected and equipped for success is the affordability of maintenance, repairs, updates and trouble-shooting. The tech wizards over on 35th Street are ready and waiting to help out with that as well. The very affordable services, available to anyone, include data retrieval and migration, memory upgrades, screen repairs, hardware and software installation, virus removals, system optimization and more. Prices are generally much lower than similar services elsewhere, and the technicians are available onsite to discuss issues; no shipping off your precious cargo to an unknown repair facility.

Wide Arms

InterConnection’s charitable reuse program operates well beyond Seattle and the Pacific Northwest; since 1999, they’ve provided low-cost technology to more than 300,000 people in 40 different countries. In Chile alone, they’ve provided 1,000 computers to rural schools, and are actively involved in rebuilding efforts after natural disasters, including recent ones in Haiti, Japan, Chile and Pakistan. They facilitate many ongoing programs, such as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique teaching students how to use computers for the first time, and empowering disabled children at the Manos Unidos school in Peru.

Care for Education nonprofit in Texas develops computer curriculum for Sri Lanka. Schools.

Care for Education nonprofit in Texas develops computer curriculum for Sri Lanka. Schools.

Within the United States, a generous grant program allows 501c3 nonprofit organizations to apply for free computers. Recent grantees have included a search and rescue squad in Tennessee; an after-school learning center for at-risk youth in New Jersey; and a child abuse prevention association in South Carolina. Some donated computers get double and triple lives; 18 computers shipped to a nonprofit education development center in Texas ended up primary-school computer labs in Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka.

Drop It Off

InterConnection has an intricate web of resources and support, but when the rubber hits the road, it’s donated used equipment that keeps the high-tech wheels rolling. The organization’s data destruction program guarantees complete erasure of existing information on donated devices and is compliant with the Department of Defense, HIPAA, SOX, FACTA, Gramm-Leach-Bliley and a host of other state and federal compliance measures.

InterConnection Nonprofit Grant Recipient: International Rescue Committee in Seattle.

InterConnection Nonprofit Grant Recipient: International Rescue Committee in Seattle.

“Moving forward, our goal is to reach more individuals and families simply in need of opportunity,” states Fraser. “We rely heavily on donations of used and surplus IT equipment from corporations and individuals alike, and hope to expand our donation stream in the upcoming year.”

So gather up your excess tech gear and drop it off at one of dozens of drop-off locations in the Puget Sound area, or schedule a free pickup or mailing label. You’ll also be part of protecting the environment, as InterConnection prevents millions of pounds of toxic computer components from entering landfills and contaminating rivers and lakes with toxic chemicals.