Starting very soon, the One Laptop Per Child project will begin limited deployments of the "$100 laptop" to children in several developing nations. This will be the first step in what is hoped will be a full deployment to about seven countries by the end of 2007.
As Ive written in the past (see "$100 laptop affords opportunity" at eweek.com), Im a big supporter of this project—I feel it will be a catalyst for both creating opportunities for children in developing nations and changing the way that current laptops are developed (through the systems power, display and wireless networking innovations).
But even when the $100 laptop is fully deployed, there still will be millions—if not billions—of children who wont be able to get one.
You might be thinking to yourself, How can I get a powerful but inexpensive computer into the hands of kids in the Third World? Well, chances are good that you have just such a powerful but inexpensive computer close by, and its not that difficult to get it to the people who need it.
Im talking about those older systems at your company—the ones that have been made redundant through recent system upgrades. Or the systems that have gone unused as your company has downsized. Maybe, like us here at eWeeks Woburn, Mass., offices, youre preparing for a move and dont want to take old, unused systems to the new space.
These kinds of systems might not be of much use to you, but at a school in Nigeria, theyll let kids surf the Web, use office productivity applications and access learning tools that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
So how do you get these systems to kids in developing nations? Thats where organizations such as World Computer Exchange come in.
World Computer Exchange collects unwanted systems from businesses, schools and even individuals. The group tests the systems, packs them onto container ships and sends them out to third-world countries. There, other nonprofit groups, schools or governments get the computers into the schools where they are needed.
According to World Computer Exchange President and Founder Timothy Anderson, the group is looking for Pentium 3 or better systems, monitors, keyboards and mice, networking equipment, and printers and printer consumables.
Now, compared with your brand-spanking-new dual-core-processor-powered PC, a Pentium 3 probably looks a little pokey. But Ive been regularly using P3 systems of late, and theyve been running Windows XP just fine—along with any browsers, graphics tools and office apps I put in their path. In a small school environment, systems like this can even make a pretty good server.
If youve been involved in a move and have had to dispose of older systems, the options usually arent that great. You probably paid some company to take the old systems away, or maybe an organization said it would take the systems off your hands for free (that is, for future sale on eBay). Either way, not much good comes of it.
But if these systems are working and in good shape, doesnt it make sense to give them to someone who can really use them?
Anderson said that the World Computer Exchange will pick up large donations (10 systems or more) and will provide receipts for tax purposes. He added that he has even provided documentation to businesses assuring them that the systems have not been disposed of improperly. Anderson also said that the group has an e-waste initiative to help recipients of the systems figure out how to recycle the donated systems once they no longer work.
I cant see why any company or individual wouldnt look at this as a great opportunity to do something good with equipment that might otherwise end up in a landfill or stripped for parts. And I can think of no better way to treat a computer that has been good to me than to get it into the hands of someone who will appreciate it as much as I did when I first got it.
And, those Pentium 3 systems were donating to World Computer Exchange? They might not have fancy new power or networking features, but when it comes to processing power, memory and disk space, they smoke the $100 laptop.
Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.