GOA, India, 28 August 2005
Being the world’s "largest non-profit supplier of computers" to the South may not rake in the millions; but APC member Computer Aid International’s chief executive Tony Roberts believes it saves millions.
Computer Aid says the number of personal computers (PCs) it has already provided to groups across the less-affluent world has crossed a total of 50,000 by June 2005. "The computers have been distributed to literally
thousands of educational institutions and not-for-profit organisations in 95 different countries," says Roberts.
He points to cold figures to make his case.
"If each machine provided by Computer Aid is used for eight hours per day — for 250 days per year — and for three years — this will make possible 300 million hours of affordable ICT4D and ICT4Ed (information communication technology for development and education) that would not otherwise have been possible," says Roberts.
He points out that 50,000 × 8 × 250 × 3 equals 300 million hours. "If we were to assign a nominal value of £100 to each PC delivered to date," says Roberts, "the monetary value of the benefit acruing from these first 50,000
PCs would be five million pounds sterling (or approx 9 million US Dollars)."
Computer Aid International’s goals include increasing the number of refurbished computers being re-used overseas, increasing the number of UK organisations donating their used IT equipment for re-use overseas, and
providing training in computer repair to people from socially excluded communities.
This member of the APC was in the news recently, after being filmed by the BBC, both in Kenya and London. This was done to produce a short piece on their programme to support, amongst others, Computers for Schools Kenya.
These programmes have been broadcast in July, on BBC World, BBC News, BBC 2 and BBC 1. Computer Aid also has been drawing media attention, specially during the recent Live 8 event, which saw a brief period of heightened awareness around development issues.
[Live 8 was a series of concerts that took place in July 2005, in the G8 nations and South Africa. They were timed to precede the G8 Conference and Summit held at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland from July 6-8, 2005; they also coincided with the 20th anniversary of Live Aid. These shows ran parallel with the UK’s Make Poverty History campaign. Their goal was to pressure world leaders to drop the debt of the world’s poorest nations, increase and improve aid, and negotiate fairer trade rules in the interest of poorer countries.]
Said Roberts: "It is much too early for me to assess the impact of this G8-related publicity. I suspect that the politics will be edited out of the interviews and the ‘charity’ left in!"
Computer Aid also took a film crew from the information and communication technologies magazine programme "Click On-line" to Kenya, to produce a short piece on their programme to support Nairobi-based NGO Computers for Schools Kenya, among others. Said Roberts: "The piece looked at how computers donated to Computer Aid in London reach rural schools in the Maasai Mara and the relevance of ICTs to marginalised communities in very rural settings."
Computer Aid works closely with a number of APC member organisations in distribution partnerships where Computer Aid provides containers of between 225 and 500 personal computers at a time, and where partners manage local distribution and essential support services on the ground.
Distribution is run as an income generating project by the local partner, which levies a fee which covers their costs of distribution and the provision of their value-added-services. This, say its promoters, generates a modest amount of unrestricted core income for the not-for-profit organisation.
Said Roberts: "In Kenya Computer Aid’s distribution partner is APC-member the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) and, in Uganda, it is the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)."
ALIN has already distributed over 1,000 PCs to community development organisations, educational institutions and other not-for-profit organisations through its BaoCom project.
Roberts notes that each PC is provided with a one-year technical service warranty. The distribution project with ALIN is already employing five full-time staff and is "growing very quickly", he says.
Earlier, Computer Aid has started on shipping the second container of PCs to Kampala for distribution by award-winning APC-member the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET).
Computer Aid says it is currently focused on actively seeking new partners in other countries to distribute affordable ICTs to marginalised groups.
"This is the reason we are currently working with various media to raise the profile of Computer Aid in target countries and identify potential new partners for distributing the benefits of ICTs applied to development and
education. Computer Aid currently ships up to 2,000 PCs per month to applicant organisations but has the capacity to ship double that volume," says Roberts.
Earlier this year, Computer Aid opened a Johannesburg office in space sub-let from APC member WomensNet. Its Southern Africa Programme Officer, Dr. Hillar Addo has been in discussion with the Community Education Computer Society (CECS) about a similar joint-working agreement in South Africa. Other distribution agreements are being discussed with Open Knowledge Network (OKN) members in Zambia, One World, and others.
Computer Aid is an NGO registered in the UK. It is currently the world’s "largest and most experienced not-for-profit provider of high quality, professionally refurbished PCs to educational institutions and not-for-profit organisations in developing countries."
Computers are donated by companies such as British Airways, DHL, Investec, Shell, and DfID. A team of skilled technicians in London clean, fully test and professionally refurbish each PC at the largest refurbishing workshop in the world dedicated to providing "first-class, second-user" PCs to not-for-profits in the non-affluent world.
Following extensive testing, any low-specification or defective machines are discarded and recycled within Europe. Only the very best machines (mainly PIIIs) are shipped to recipient organisations, says the organisation.