Schools in Behchoko and Fort Providence received dozens of donated computers this week in time for the start of classes on Aug. 31.
Yellowknife-based IT company Global Storm has been running its computer donation program since April in an effort to close the technology gap that exists between the territory’s small communities and the regional centres.
Though all schools in the NWT will open to in-person classes on Aug. 31, one of the initial drives of the donation program was to boost the communities’ technological capabilities to enable better access to remote education after schools closed in April.
Of the 50 computers that Global Storm recently received, 14 notebooks were repurposed and passed onto the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency (TCSA), said Global Storm CEO Kirby Marshall.
They were donated by Canadian Helicopters Limited and law firm Borden Ladner Gervais.
“It feels great to help out,” said Grant Wall, marketing manager with Canadian Helicopters, which donated six notebooks.
“We have a series of bases in the North. We’re in touch with the communities and have employees in the area. They know a lot of the local groups. It’s great to lend a hand at a crazy time.”
The TCSA will use its donated notebooks for Chief Jimmy Bruneau School in Behchoko.
“I’m happy for the kids,” said Lucy Lafferty, culture and language coordinator with the TCSA. “We’ll have (computers) for students who might not have any at home. And hopefully they’ll be able to do their online school work.”
Students in Grade 12 at the high school will be given priority for use of the notebooks, especially those who will be learning from home, said Linsey Hope, the TCSA’s Director of Education.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Tlicho Government and Global Storm for helping 12 of our students receive laptops. Many students in Behchoko are without laptops at home to participate in distance and blended learning opportunities,” she said.
Another 25 computers were donated by the Dehcho Division Education Council (DDEC), in the form of older Apple iMac Pro model desktop computers. Twelve of them were repurposed and given this week to Deh Gáh Elementary and Secondary School in Fort Providence. The remaining 13 were recycled due to their outdated components.
In June, that school received 25 Mac Pro desktops through Global Storm.
“(The DDEC) had these systems collecting dust for ages and approached us when they heard about the donor program,” said Marshall. “They were to be binned. I then agreed to take them and see what we could do. It made sense given DDEC was a key target recipient for us.”
A break-in and robbery of the school on Aug. 14 resulted in $10,000 in damages, including stolen electronics, though it was unclear if any donated computers were taken.
NNSL Media has requested more information of the principal of Deh Gáh School.
Marshall’s goal is to receive at least 500 donated notebook computers for Northern communities. Desktops are accepted but notebooks are preferred because they’re easier to transport to fly-in communities.
The latest loads bring to more than 150 the total number of donated computers, which have come from NWT communities, Alberta and Vancouver.
Donated computers can be dropped off at the office of NNSL Media in Yellowknife, which has partnered with Global Storm for the project. The devices are collected at the news organization’s office and sanitized according to NWT health guidelines. Their basic details are then logged and asset tags are added.
Once passed onto Global Storm, the company wipes the hard drives and re-installs and configures the necessary software.