Over the past few decades, internet technology has gone from revolutionary to essential, yet close to 80 million Americans cannot afford either computer hardware or a broadband internet connection. Long Beach-based non-profit human-I-T is helping scores of financially disadvantaged people each week to bridge this gap, while also addressing the rapidly growing problem of discarded electronics products: E-waste.

“Americans are purchasing technology at a rate faster than any other time in human history,” said Gabe Middleton, CEO of human-I-T and a Long Beach State University graduate. “E-waste is the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. human-I-T co-founder James Jack and I wanted to take the E-waste problem, combine it with the digital divide problem and create one solution.”

The team at human-I-T’s high-energy, campus-y Downtown Long Beach headquarters is constantly in communication with people looking for low-cost internet services and solid, reconditioned computer hardware. human-I-T Programs Coordinator Stephanie Alvarez said the company receives “many hundreds” of inquiries each week and finalizes internet and equipment arrangements with around 20 people per day.

human-I-T gathers discarded computer equipment through its I.T.A.D. (Information Technology Asset Disposition) program. The company refurbishes this gear at its warehouse in Commerce, then partners with other local community-based organizations to make its presence and services known.

If a person or family qualifies financially, human-I-T gives them access to low-cost laptops, desktops, monitors, routers, and all the other internet hardware essentials. The company will then arrange free or low-cost internet services.

“We believe in the right to have access to information,” said Gabe Middleton. “It’s so vital, not only for one’s personal success but even to have a functioning democracy: We need to have an informed electorate.”

human-I-T has lofty ambitions: Project Manager Paulina Sanchez is currently working with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office on the Los Angeles College Promise program, in which 4,300 computers will be given to low-income students in the L.A. area. Sanchez is also overseeing human-I-T’s first major expansion, which will take place in Detroit.

“It’s our ambition to be in every metropolis across the country,” said Gabe Middleton.