Updated: Jul 31, 2021
Catch the conversation here: The Digital Librarian Making A Difference
Sat here typing on my laptop, popping my AirPods back into their case to charge after listening to the latest ONEOFTHE8 podcast on my iPhone, I realise just how much I take my technological privileges for granted. To be reading this story, you must also be well-endowed in digital connectivity; I assume you’ll be sat scrolling through on a shiny smartphone, your trusty tablet, or tapping in via your laptop or computer.
Where would we be without our digital limbs, hey? The devices which have basically become an extension of the human body.
As we touched on in Nina Andersen’s story about the lost art of letter writing, the internet and our digital gadgets have been immeasurably valuable over the past year or so, when face-to-face communication became almost obsolete courtesy of COVID-19. But fortunately, for most of us, technology and access to the internet are an everyday luxury we can always rely upon. That blue light glow that’s like a halo around us all, connecting us to people and places all over the planet from the comfort of our own sofa.
‘My background’s IT and I love trying to help people - that’s it in a nutshell’
What if somebody was to strip all of that away?
Take away your laptop, confiscate your mobile phone, and leave you without a key to enter the big, wide, digital world so many of us live, work and play in. For some people, that’s an unfortunate reality. Those who are ‘digitally excluded’ is where our latest guest, Andy Young has been channeling his abundance of altruistic energy since starting up his green and generous initiative, ‘My Outsourced IT’.
Take a look at Andy’s CV and you would presume he was just an ordinary guy, born in North Wales and now living in Manchester, with a successful career in web programming and tech support. To some extent you’d be correct but dig beneath the surface and there’s way more to him than meets the eye.
Andy’s passion for computers began right at the very beginning, when Andy was about 13 years old, and his dad brought home the family’s first computer - an Amstrad CPC464. He describes it as being like ‘a beacon of light’, and something he dived headfirst into, ‘tinkering’ and exploring to his heart’s content.
'It’s so important that people are digitally included, because it just gives them such a great start in life’
It wasn’t all computer games and gadgets though. Andy’s young life was marked with a number of traumatic events of childhood abuse, something computers always helped Andy escape from but which would rear its ugly head again later in life. In 2010 when daughter Rebecca was born, Andy started having flashbacks to these traumatic events, suffering PTSD, depression and anxiety in his adulthood that were only exacerbated by a high-pressure career and regularly working 14-hour days.
This led to a period of self-harm and drug abuse for Andy, all the while still maintaining his professional plight to earn as much money as physically possible. Eventually, through incredible strength and the devoted support of his wife and family, Andy connected with a mental health team on a mission to rebuild his life. It was around this time that ‘My Outsourced IT’ came into existence - more specifically, following a conversation Andy overheard between parents during the school morning drop-off.
This was back in March 2020, when rumours of the first lockdown were becoming more reality than fallacy, and when schools were starting to prepare for the prospect of remote home-teaching. Andy heard one mother talking about how she would be having to teach her 8-year-old on her mobile phone - a concept which sent Andy reeling and the moment that catalysed his plan to ‘put a laptop in every home for free’.
And so, ‘My Outsourced IT’ was born.
‘It’s having a library at your fingertips that I find the most fascinating thing about all of this’
Andy started by reaching out to old colleagues and companies he had worked for in the past, subsequently ending up with ‘quite a substantial amount of hardware’ on his hands. Next, he spoke to schools in the Manchester area and discovered that a significant number of pupils and families were relying on libraries for access to books, internet and printing. He also found out that in one school alone, there were around 20-30 families who had no access to internet or IT facilities whatsoever.
Put two and two together and you’ll soon work out what came next…
Andy began giving the hardware he had acquired out to those digitally disadvantaged, and since the initiative’s conception in March 2020, has single-handedly helped more than 400 families in the North West. He has connected with the local council who have provided him with office space - plenty of room to house the team of volunteers he is building up during 2021 to help manage donations and deliveries.
It’s not just new devices in the best nick either. Andy also runs a free workshop where people bring their devices to be fixed, or for the elderly, he will pick up the broken device and deliver it back once it has been restored to health. Andy tells us how this particular aspect of the job has been a great way to get out there and put faces to the names of the people he is helping. A healthy dose of human connection.
Not only that, ‘My Outsourced IT’ also helps businesses who donate redundant laptops, computers and tablets offset their carbon footprint and adopt a much more eco-friendly approach by reducing electrical waste. In fact, Andy describes the local community’s response to the initiative as being ‘pure chaos’ as he has been overwhelmed with donations, support and even a sponsor who gave £3,000 to help equip a special needs school.
‘Helping people is a much better way of doing things than just trying to earn as much money as you possibly can’
As is customary for all ONEOFTHE8 guests, we asked Andy what inspires him most, to which he answered: ‘the realisation that money isn’t everything’. Andy’s own journey from a money-centric workaholic with a ‘lavish lifestyle’, to a human who leads a nice life but now spends a great deal of it helping others, without a concern for financial gain, is what gets him out of bed every morning.
More than that, it gives Andy the motivation to fight through the dark days which still come and go like life’s seasons, as well as being able to better himself through offering a helping hand to others a lot less fortunate.
When the world as Andy once knew it collapsed around him, he remerged with a newfound freedom from the monetised mindset that had long been imprisoning him. He is now able to pay his fortune forward to transform what the future looks like for digitally excluded members of the community. This doesn’t just give them access to technology or access to the internet, it gives them access to education, access to opportunities, access to life.
We can’t wait to watch how this fabulous initiative unfolds; I’ve got a feeling this is the start of something pretty special.
To find out more about Andy’s services, to donate or support, or to get involved, head here. To hear more about Andy’s personal story so far and to put the project into context, make sure you catch up with his episode on the ONEOFTHE8 podcast.