Provide the UCSB community with an affordable, accessible, and environmentally sustainable technological repair resource to reduce digital inequality and e-waste.
We’ve all experienced the frustration of a cracked screen, a frozen laptop, or a device that just won’t charge anymore. When students rely on their digital devices for coursework or their jobs, using a poorly performing device creates an unequal playing field on college campuses. For those who are able to afford a new device, opting to purchase a new phone or laptop—instead of repairing an existing one—contributes to the quickly growing issue of e-waste.
Unsatisfied with these trends, we decided to do something about it. We have imagined an on-campus technology repair resource led and operated by student staff that would provide affordable and accessible repairs. We want to make the choice to repair a device easier and more affordable than purchasing a new one.
The first step towards this goal is addressing the need for personal device repair. The Sustainable Technology Repair Initiative (STRI) strives to help students become more familiar with their digital devices and increase their digital literacy through educational programming and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing opportunities. Whether it be on campus or online, we can help students develop and hone their knowledge of the digital devices they use every day for school, work, and beyond. With STRI, the next time the functionality of your computer, laptop, or other digital device begins to deteriorate, there is a resource you can turn to if you want to learn about the issue you’re facing and be confident about the options you have to fix your device.
The pilot year (2019-2020) of the Sustainable Technology Repair Initiative was made possible through a grant from the UCSB Green Initiative Fund, with additional funding provided by the Office of Financial Aid. During our pilot year we trained a team of students to provide minor tech repair, collected data to better understand the scope of the digital divide on campus, and implemented a Pop-Up repair service to demonstrate the viability of our service. Students can help their fellow students with digital device repair!
As we transition from our pilot year, we continue to work on refining the educational and service supports that STRI can offer to our student body. During the 2020-2021 year, we worked to develop a business plan for Associated Students, which proposes housing digital device repair under the Associated Students services umbrella. In the long-term, we hope to gain enough student and administration support for this digital device repair initiative that it becomes a permanent student support service on campus.
In the Summer of 2021, we began our education initiative. Thus far, we have delivered webinars on the Right to Repair movement and making well-informed decisions as a college-aged consumer. We have also continued to provide virtual consultations throughout the pandemic, and with the return to in-person classes in the Fall, altered our in-person repair practices to make the process as safe as possible for both our student workers and those we seek out our services.
In the upcoming months, we will have a variety of projects in the works. We will continue our education initiative, and we will be creating a new Tech Equity Advocate position to serve as a basic needs resource for students and make technology more accessible.
We will become a resource across all campuses. We will meet the basic need of sustained access to quality technology that students need for a successful college experience, both inside and outside the classroom. We will facilitate a more sustainable treatment of the environment, free from excess e-waste.
We want to change the world, and that begins with you.