Photos: Old PCs help Africa's blind

Photos: Old PCs help Africa's blind

Summary: Refurbished PCs and clever use of USB keys are revolutionising the lives of visually impaired people in Kenya

TOPICS: Mobility

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  • Following our participation in Computer Aid's cycle challenge in Kenya, ZDNet UK took some time to check out other projects being run by the organisation, which takes old PCs from businesses and refurbishes them for use in the developing world.

    One organisation that Computer Aid is currently partnering with is the Kenyan Union of the Blind (KUB). Executive officer Martin Kieti, himself partially sighted, explained the challenges faced by blind children and students in Kenya and how IT can provide much-needed access to information.

  • The KUB is working alongside existing partner Sightsavers and Computer Aid to improve the education and rehabilitation of blind Kenyans. KUB has about 70 percent coverage of the country so far, in around 45 branches.

    In the past, most of the access to information has been through Braille books and paper, according to Martin Kieti. "This is quite cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming," he said. "Bringing Braille into the hands of someone in the village has been a challenge. One ream of paper costs about $100 and one Braille machine costs about $5,000." The process of putting a book into Braille is also challenging — it can take up to two or three months to convert a textbook, for example.

    But with the rise of ICT, the charity has increasingly been looking at alternative formats that make use of technology. Audio tape was used for a while but the format is starting to disappear, even in Africa. Now CDs and DVDs are increasingly being used as an alternative to Braille. The charity is now in discussion with publishers about getting access to raw texts of books, including government textbooks, for conversion into digital formats.

Topic: Mobility

Andrew Donoghue

About Andrew Donoghue

"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism."

Hunter S. Thompson

Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journalist with over ten years on leading titles such as Computing, SC Magazine, BusinessGreen and

Specialising in sustainable IT and technology in the developing world, he has reported and volunteered on African aid projects, as well as working with charitable organisations such as the UN Foundation and Computer Aid.

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