A Great Demand for
Affordable PCs"> The actual cost of refurbishing these computers will be determined through the Ugandan pilot, which will also serve to prove whether the project is commercially viable before being rolled out elsewhere in Africa, Yumkella said. Microsoft and UNIDO, a specialized agency of the United Nations that works towards improving the quality of life of the worlds poor by helping countries achieve sustainable industrial development, are "committed to developing a model for refurbishment that is sustainable, both economically and environmentally," he said.Read more here about new homes for old PCs. "Microsoft through its know-how with refurbished PC solutions, and UNIDO through its experience in entrepreneurial development, have the opportunity to help address this problem," he said. The recycling initiative also has stringent quality criteria for refurbished computers, including warranties and after-sales service, while the refurbishment initiative will address the proper disposal and recycling of computers once they reach the end of their lifetime. Microsoft and UNIDO will also address the issue of e-waste by promoting regional recycling facilities in East Africa, Ayala said. Click here to read more about the challenges that abound in the quest to connect Africa. This latest initiative is the third collaborative program between the two organizations in less than a year to enable new avenues of economic and social empowerment through access to innovative technology. Barbara Kreissler, an industrial development officer at UNIDO in Vienna, Austria, told eWEEK in an interview that what is unique about this program is that the refurbishment will be done locally; and the goal is to create a center of excellence for refurbished computers for East Africa.
"This creates jobs in the region. Our goal is to create a business model around this. Also, as we are focusing on small and mid-sized enterprises, we believe the initiative will be successful and, lastly, we will set up e-waste recycling centers, where the components can be broken down into their elements and properly recycled or disposed of. This type of operation only exists in South Africa at this point," she said.
Asked whether UNIDO has similar relationships with other technology companies, Kreissler said that while it talked to them, its relationship with Microsoft is unique, but that UNIDO is interested in partnering with other tech firms.
"In terms of the IT sector, our partnership with Microsoft is the most developed. But we are open to looking into partnering with other companies and we feel that this refurbishment partnership might steer us in that direction," she said.
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.
For his part, Dr. Cheick Diarra, the chairman of Microsoft Africa, told attendees that there is a great demand for affordable computers in the SMB community in Africa.