Computer Aid gives 40,000 PCs a fresh start

Over £2m worth of computer equipment has now been refurbished by Computer Aid for organisations in the developing world

Two million pounds worth of computers may not seem like a big deal these days, but when each computer is valued at £50 it adds up to a lot of kit.

For Computer Aid International, it equals 40,000 PCs that have now been refurbished by the North London-based charity and sent out to schools, community projects and other not-for-profit organisations in 90 countries, mainly in the developing world.

These 40,000 PCs have a second-life expectancy of three years each, according to the organisation, adding up to over 220 million hours of IT use.

"This is a real testament to the generosity of our donors and yet another important milestone for Computer Aid International", said Tony Roberts, chief executive of Computer Aid. "Demand for PCs is high and we are looking to more than double the number we have shipped so far in the next two years. Our target now is to reach 100,000 PCs in 2007."

Companies and individuals who wish to donate PCs and other computing equipment to Computer Aid can do so online through BridgeTheDigitalDivide.com, a site jointly run with ZDNet UK's parent company CNET Networks UK.

Since the cost associated with each PC is fixed (£39 to refurbish and £11 to ship), Computer Aid is able to fundraise in innovative ways, said Roberts. "If an organisation like Oxfam or Unesco wants a whole container full of computers, we can provide that at a fixed cost, and the fund-raising is effectively done by that organisation. Although it was not what we expected, most of our money comes from that source."

Roberts said that Computer Aid's security procedures, which ensure all data is wiped from a PC's hard disk, mean that it can decommission equipment from banks, the Treasury and hospitals. Most PCs are shipped without software and recipient organisations tend to install it locally, though Computer Aid is a Microsoft-certified refurbisher it occasionally installs open source software on the systems as well as some from Microsoft.

"PCs are a rare commodity in many countries," continued Tony Roberts. "The vast majority of schools and not-for-profits simply cannot afford to purchase new equipment in view of the prohibitive costs involved."

But Computer Aid does not just ship PCs to anybody who asks for them, added Roberts. "There is no point in providing hardware to a place where there is no appropriate technical support. We attempt to work through partner organisations in each country who have the capacity to provide the necessary technical and training support."

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