Govt sells laptops to the needy

Govt sells laptops to the needy

Summary: The Australian Government today announced a partnership that will see its old computers refurbished and sold cheaply to Australian families.


The Australian Government today announced a partnership that will see its old computers refurbished and sold cheaply to Australian families.

As it conducts refreshes, the Department of Human Services (DHS) will provide its old laptops to not-for-profit organisation WorkVentures, which will then rework them to be sold to those who are in need.

"WorkVentures will sell the computers to Centrelink concession-card holders, low-income earners, schools and not-for-profit organisations," the minister for DHS, Senator Kim Carr, said in a statement.

The arrangement is starting with a lot of 800 computers, but is expected to be expanded to more devices in the future.

WorkVentures purchases the computers at a low price and sells them, with Microsoft Windows, Office and a laptop bag, for $319, including delivery. Considering shipping and work costs, it works out to be approximately cost neutral, according to the DHS.

In the past, there have been occasions when selling on government computers has put government data at risk, as data on the machines was not removed properly before the sale. The Western Australia auditor-general conducted a test in 2008, buying 19 second-hand PCs that looked to be ex-government. Of those, 10 were ex-government, and four had sensitive information still accessible on their hard drives. Three of the four hard drives had been formatted, with no attempts having been made to remove information from the fourth.

This isn't going to be a problem in this case, according to the government and WorkVentures. The DHS said that it has taken steps to delete data before providing the laptops to WorkVentures, and adding that it is also a contractual requirement for WorkVentures to make sure that the laptops are clean before passing them on.

WorkVentures CEO Arsenio Alegre said that his company has provided similar services for Westpac and other companies, and has never had a problem, adding that the company's methods comply with US Department of Defence (DoD) standards.

If the laptops are not suitable to sell on, WorkVentures will organise for them to be recycled. When doing that, WorkVentures will go as far as to destroy the hard drive, he said.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Laptops, Mobility

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • ComputerBank in various States including our own Computerbank Queensland have been doing this on desktops as well as laptops since the '90s with donations from private and commercial enterprises by refurbishing systems with various Linux distributions, setting up Open/Libre Office for school/home work and including all the cost free Open Source software that makes Linux the best choice for the needy.
    In the past we haven't been able to obtain donations from Government sources as to quote their argument, "they cannot be seen to be competing with the private sector." Hopefully now this policy has changed, we can receive systems from Government departments.