Bridging
the digital divide

Closer look at a project: Luisha school in D.R. Congo

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One of the projects Close the Gap recently supported with donated IT material is a school in Luisha, a village 80km from Lubumbashi, the second largest city in Democratic Republic of Congo.

In total, 20 desktop PCs, 7 laptops and 4 printers were installed in the school. The 1000 students of the school are very excited about this brand new computer class, which is intensively occupied all day. With this IT class, students will now be able to further develop their digital skills and to take part in the digital world. Every student that has now access to IT is a step closer to bridging the digital divide.

The next step for the school is to install an internet connection, so that the students can also use the computers to explore the web.

Are you also interested in donating your company’s computers to support educational or other projects such as this one? Click here for more information.

Do you have a project that could use some computers? Click here to fill in the application form.

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Close the Gap’s founder and CEO visited BeCentral with Proximus board and executive committee

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On October 24, Close the Gap’s founder and CEO Olivier Vanden Eynde visited BeCentral together with the Proximus (one of Belgium’s largest telecommunication companies) board and executive committee. Participants included Dominique Leroy (CEO of Proximus), Luc Van den Hove (CEO of Imec, also a close partner of Close the Gap) and Karel De Gucht (member of the Proximus board and former European Commissioner for Trade).

BeCentral is a digital campus located in Brussels Central Station. Co-founded & backed-up by more than 40 entrepreneurs, they are on a mission to close the digital skills gap and help to accelerate Belgium’s Digital Transformation. They do this by hosting digital schools or workshops in an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

As one of the co-founders of BeCentral, Olivier Vanden Eynde and Close the Gap have a very close partnership with this Brussels-based digital campus. Together with the Proxiumus board and executive committee, the participants visited Google Atelier, located in BeCentral. They also discovered BeCentral’s most recent projects through an engaging presentation. Afterwards, Olivier Vanden Eynde participated in an open discussion with Minister Alexander De Croo, Karen Boers (co-founder and managing director of startups.be) and Laurent Hublet (also a co-founder of BeCentral). The topic of the discussion was how digital can leverage job opportunities and boost our economies.

After the discussion the group also visited a BeCode coding class. BeCode is founded on the idea that everyone with the right motivation can learn how to code. This coding school is one of the projects that Close the Gap supports regularly with computer donations.

 

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WorldLoop to feature in Waste Management course taught at University of Delft

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WorldLoop, one of Close the Gap’s initiatives, is mentioned as an exemplary organisation in a series of lectures of a Waste Management course taught at the University of Delft, the Netherlands.

WorldLoop’s objective is to recycle e-waste such as computers that have reached their second end-of-life, after they have served as refurbished devices in educational, health, and other social projects supported by Close the Gap. This recycling is done in an environmentally sound and thus sustainable way. With this initiative, hazardous e-waste is reduced and handled appropriately.

WorldLoop’s mission has triggered the interest of the lecturers at the University of Delfts, who wanted to include WorldLoop as an example of how (e-)waste management needs to be handled. The objective of the course is to teach students of the key role that waste management plays in saving critical raw materials. Moreover, students will also gain practical knowledge of the circular economy, recycling, refurbishment, and remanufacturing as a means of identifying new business opportunities.

For more information about WorldLoop, click here or visit the WorldLoop website.

ENGIE, Accenture and Ordina donate their mobile phones through Close the Gap pilot project

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15 October 2018 – Close the Gap set up a mobile phone collection project in association with WorldLoop and through a partnership with Raising Results, a digital marketing and strategic fundraising company. This pilot project engages employees of Ordina, Accenture and ENGIE to donate their old phones to support innovation projects and to handle the growing e-waste problematic in a sustainable and responsible way.

The initiative of the mobile phone collection project was born out of the importance to evolve towards a more sustainable and circular economy. As private mobile phones contribute to a large share of today’s e-waste (up to 8 million unused mobile phones can be found in Belgian and Dutch households), action needs to be taken. Due to the large potential of these old phones, the pilot project aims to collect employees’ phones through an awareness and collection campaign.

In the first stage, three companies will motivate their employees to donate their old mobile phones. Accenture, ENGIE and Ordina will kick-off this internal campaign on October 15th, closely following International E-Waste Day on October 13th. The first phase of the project is focused on interactive communication and raising awareness. Employees will have access to an online platform and a quiz where they can test their knowledge about their own old devices. Everyone will then have two weeks to donate their phones in the collection boxes provided by Recupel, a Belgian non-profit association that is responsible for organising the collection and processing of discarded electr(on)ic appliances and light bulbs.

After the collection period, the donated phones will be processed. The critical raw materials, the valuables such as gold, cobalt and aluminium, will be recycled in a sustainable way by Umicore. During the European Week for Waste Reduction (from November 17th until November 25th), the results will be communicated to the employees. All revenue from the collected phones will be used to support innovative entrepreneurship by donating the funds raised to a tech start-up selected by Close the Gap.

With a full feedback loop, the results will be communicated in detail to all participating companies and their employees. “This way, participants will see firsthand that their non-used phones contain much more potential than they would probably have imagined,” says Didier Appels, Director Strategic Partnerships at Close the Gap. Moreover, employees will personally experience that their and their company’s efforts can lead to valuable investments in circular initiatives.

 

Interested to learn about the results of the pilot or interested to implement the same action in your own company?  Contact Didier Appels via didier.appels@close-the-gap.org

 

Click here for regular updates about the project.


Close the Gap in the jury of the Impact Trophy

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On October 13, Maïté Herkens, Strategic Advisor at Close the Gap, was part of the jury of the Impact Trophy. This three-day cross-corporate contest aims at implementing solutions connected to the challenges of 10 non-profit Oorganizations, active in one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. This event connected non-profit organizations and corporate companies through an innovation program where mixed teams need to develop sustainable solutions for societal issues.

Click here for more detailed information about the event and the winners.

 

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A closer look at a project: Thaki and Home of Hope Lebanon

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One of the projects Close the Gap recently supported is Thaki. This organisation aims at empowering refugee and disadvantaged children by offering them electronic tools such as computers and laptops.

Close the Gap provided Thaki with 50 notebooks. With these notebooks, young refugees with limited educational resources will be able to have access to high quality, interactive educational content. These 50 laptops in particular will help refugee children in Lebanon. Thaki loaded the notebooks with educational software before distributing them to Home of Hope, an organisation that works with vulnerable children in Lebanon. Thaki’s ultimate aim is to help children unlock their full potential through software.

“Already this year the students have used the laptops to learn about word processing and research methods. We have students learning about space, about the history of chocolate, whales, and future technologies. Younger students have taken to the educational gaming software on the computers. This set is enabling us to run simultaneous tech classes – we have coding and robotics taking place at the same time as research and computer skills. Thank you again. These laptops are a huge help to us!” – Home of Hope Lebanon.

With Close the Gap’s support, Thaki enables children and young adults to develop their digital skills, and to continue their education. This ultimately falls within Close the Gap’s mission to bridge the digital divide. 

Click here to discover how you can contribute as well by donating your company’s used IT material, which will in turn support impactful projects such as Thaki.


Congratulations to the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 winners

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In 2018, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded jointly to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Both laureates advocate for an end to sexual violence from different sides of the spectrum, but with a common goal in mind. Nadia Murad is a Yazidi-Iraqi human rights activist who was kidnapped and held by the Islamic State for three months. Denis Mukwege is a Congolese gynecologist working with victims of sexual violence. Close the Gap would like to congratulate both laureates for their hard work, which is justly awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Mukwege founded and works in Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where he specializes in the treatment of women who have been raped by armed rebels. The region where the hospital is located has been devastated by war and an epidemic of sexualized violence for more than twenty years. Today, the Panzi Hospital serves more than 400,000 constituents in the Ibanda Health Zone. The hospital is one of the projects located in the field of health care that Close the Gap supported in recent years. In total, more than 400 computers were donated to Panzi hospital.

Mr. Mukwege is also a member of the jury of the King Baudouin Foundation African Development Prize, together with Close the Gap’s founder and CEO Olivier Vanden Eynde. This prize aims to reward individuals or organisations who are making an outstanding contribution to development in Africa.


Close the Gap attended award ceremony of the Digital for Development Prize

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On Thursday October 4th, Close the Gap’s team attended the Digital for Development (D4D) Prize event hosted at the Africa Museum in Brussels. This event closed the D4D Prize organised by the Royal Museum of Central Africa with an award ceremony.

This year’s edition concluded on October 4th. Prize D4D rewards outstanding initiatives that use digitisation and (new) technologies as a lever for development towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Participants could register in three different categories: iStartup, iStandout, and iChoose. The jury panel selected the winners of the first two categories, while the last category’s winner was decided by public vote.

The winner for the iStandOut category was the online video platform Access Agriculture. They use training videos in local languages to support farmers and sustainable agriculture technologies. In the category iStartup, the winner was the app WisePocket, a spin-off of the VUB and Universidad de Oriente in Santiago de Cuba. This mobile app wants to make healthcare campaigns more effective through interaction and gamification. The winner of the public vote in the iChoose category was EIGHT, an initiative which allows residents of a town in Uganda to become “an agent of change” themselves through mobile money transfers without conditions.

Apart from an award ceremony, the Africa Museum also took the opportunity to host an innovation fair during the event. During this innovation fair, Close the Gap’s founder and CEO, Olivier Vanden Eynde, gave a short presentation about Tech for Development and the evolving needs in emerging and developing countries. Close the Gap also had an information booth during the fair were visitors could learn more about our different initiatives to bridge the digital divide.

After the Innovation fair, the actual award ceremony took place. The ceremony was presented by Alexander De Croo, Minister of Development Cooperation and Digital Agenda. Afterwards, participants and visitors had the opportunity to share ideas about Digital for Development with each other.

Also interested in joining the Belgian Digital for Development community? Register on kindling.be

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D4D Prize, Digital for Development te Tervuren met minister Alexander Decroo.

D4D Prize, Digital for Development at Tervuren with minister Alexander De Croo.


Close the Gap’s founder and CEO interviewed by Le Vif/L’Express

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21/9/2018: Last week, an article appeared in the Belgian news magazine Le Vif/L’Express about critical raw materials such as lithium, and the questions this could bring up regarding recycling and reuse. The topic of the article is closely connected with both Close the Gap and WorldLoop’s missions. By on the one hand reusing old computers for social projects and on the other hand recycling these reused computers at the end of their second life, both organisations contribute to a sustainable solution for these precious metals that are at the base of modern technology.

Even though raw materials used in for example products such as smartphones and batteries for electric cars are indispensable for the further development of technology, many of these materials are threatened by a short-term shortage. Recycling and reuse are a first step in obtaining a better balance in this regard, but more radical change is needed. This more radical solution would be based on a change in how consumers treat such products using critical raw materials.

The journalist who wrote the article, Laurence Van Ruymbeke, reached out to Close the Gap in order to get an insight from founder and CEO Olivier Vanden Eynde. He mentioned that consumerism itself has to pass from a ‘throw-away-when-broken’ perspective to a more circular approach. Olivier Vanden Eynde said that “the younger generation is evolving from an economy of possession to one of sharing.” He also mentions that “indefinite growth is impossible.” And even though “change isn’t simple, the new generation will succeed in this radical change of mentality.”

Click here to reach the article (In French).

Social Entrepreneurship event organised by VUB linked to Close the Gap’s support for VUB Chair

Close the Gap is one of the founding partners of the VUB Chair for Social Entrepreneurship. This research Chair joins together the academic and corporate world in the search for sustainable business models for social entrepreneurship. Moreover, the chair aims to create a platform that helps to advance social entrepreneurs.

In September, Close the Gap renewed its support for this Chair for the academic year of 2018, for the fourth year in a row since the Chair’s creation in 2015. In the context of this Chair for Social Entrepreneurship, the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) will organize a networking event centered around social entrepreneurship. During this event, attendants will be informed and inspired on how to create sustainable solutions together. Apart from this, the event is also promoting entrepreneurial action coming from students. The second part of the event is therefore dedicated to students and alumni of the university sharing their projects.

The networking event takes place on September 28th, from 2pm until 3.30pm. Below the invitation and the programme of the afternoon.

VUB event 28 Sept Invitation and Programme