I am off to Kenya next week with UK charity Computer Aid to see some of the projects that PCs donated by UK companies have made possible. I have reported on some of these before such as the Dolphin Pen (USB Key) device which Computer Aid is funding and allows visually impaired teachers in Kenya to interact with information on their laptops more easily. I'll be following up this story and others so watch-out for the special report at the end of this month.
(Kenyan Union of the Blind (KUB) executive officer Martin Kieti who is leading the Dolphin Pen project alongside Computer Aid)
Coincidentally, I just received an invite from HP asking me to attend a press conference on the 18th September looking at the issue of IT related waste in Africa- which is a big problem:
HP has joined forces with the Global Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) and the Swiss Institute for Material Science (Empa) to analyse and provide training on improved technologies and new removal processes with the aim to develop a blueprint for electronic waste management in Africa.
In the UK HP avoids working with organisations that donate PCs to developing countries as it claims that some of these organisations are unscrupulous and use the idea of donating PCs as a cover for dumping dead machines on these countries. However, I think this blanket ban is a bit short-sighted on HP's part as Computer Aid and others are very careful about the quality of the machines they donate – and make sure they track them to make sure they are properly disposed off at the end of life.
One of the organisations that Computer Aid works with – Computers for Schools Kenya – even makes use of defunct CRT monitors by turning them into TVs. There is a different attitude to recycling in Africa – it's not seen as a new fad – but rather something that just happens out of necessity and a matter of course. Everything with some intrinsic value is seen as salvageable and re-usable. Obviously a lot of this has to do with poverty, but it's also an attitude and philosophy that has roots in the culture.