The Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education has found a better use for its redundant computer equipment. Rather than simply throwing away literally a ton of still usable equipment, the institute is instead donating it to Digital Links International, an organization that recycles and distributes donated computer equipment to schools, hospitals and small businesses in parts of Africa that need these tools.

So far, Digital Links has distributed more than 15,000 computers to Ghana, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa, with more than 300,000 people benefiting. The organization also gives training in Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Zambia and has a presence in a further thirteen African nations.

Project Digital 10 20 10

Digital Links" initiative, called Project Digital 10 20 10, aims to place 400,000 computers into the developing world by the year 2010, and to have ten million African school children benefiting from then. In an age when computer literacy is becoming increasingly important for each successive generation, the provision of these computers goes a long way to increasing the potential of people living in impoverished areas. Computers can also be used as a challenging and different learning tool for children who will need to rely on their education far more heavily than those in richer nations.

The project highlights the great gap that continues to separate the developed and developing world; what was heading for a landfill here can provide crucial skills and education to many there. It is often easy to take the comforts of life in the West for granted, extending from easily available software to the very power it runs on; many of the communities Project Digital deals with do not actually have an electricity supply, and the project has looked into connecting solar-powered generators to run recycled laptops on.

Donations of Leftovers?

It is however discomforting to feel that Africa's problems can be solved by constant donations of leftovers; the West donates old clothes, old mobile phones, old spectacles, old toys and now old computers. While these donations are, of course, always greatly welcomed, no African nation wants to become a "second-hand state" and in this country, it is all too easy to salve one's conscience merely by diverting our waste to them and considering the matter closed, with "our bit done".

Grimsby's donation should not be misread; as an education institution it feels especially strongly that the computers will be used to help other education institutes, and the lesson here is not in the act but in the example; Project Digital's goal of 400,000 computers by the year 2010 could be easily reached and passed if more institutes and companies donated to it - there are, after all, over 850 million computers running in the world, and the rate at which they are replaced is also increasing.

The Grimsby Institute has said that it will continue to donate its redundant computer equipment for as long as the project runs, and hopes that others will lead by example. "We are an education establishment, so it's great to know that the computers are going to help schools in Africa," said Barry Clarkson, Grimsby Institute's IT Manager. "We will continue to support the project and hope to encourage other organisations to do the same."

Daniel Wallis

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