Guide to Upcycling Retired Digital Devices


Several key terms related to digital inclusion and device upcycling schemes are used throughout this guide. This glossary provides short definitions of these terms.

Beneficiaries: Digitally excluded people to whom upcycled devices are provided. They may also be referred to as ‘participants’ or ‘recipients’.

Data wiping: The process of removing all files and data from a device to ensure that no information from the original user can be accessed or viewed by a new user. Data wiping is also referred to as device or data ‘sanitisation’ or ‘erasure’.

Digital devices: This includes desktop computers, laptops, Chromebooks, tablets and smartphones.

Device distribution: The process of identifying and distributing devices to beneficiaries.

Device upcycling: The process of adapting (e.g. by data wiping, refurbishing and upgrading) a retired device, resulting in a higher specification or an improved functional state.

Device recycling: Part of the process of recovering materials from digital devices, such as precious metals, for the purpose of reusing them in the development of new products.

Device refurbishing: Part of the upcycling process that can include repairing hardware (e.g. a broken screen) and updating  software to improve the functionality and performance of the device.

Retired devices: Used digital devices that are no longer required by their current owner. Many organisations ‘retire’ old devices once they reach a certain age or are replaced by newer equipment.

Transfer of ownership agreement (sometimes referred to as a ‘gift agreement’): A legal document that outlines the key terms and conditions in relation to the transfer of devices from a donor to a recipient.

Upcycling service provider: An organisation that provides one or more services involved in the upcycling of devices, such as data wiping, device refurbishing and distribution to beneficiaries.

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