COMPUTER AID STARTS REFURBING IN NAIROBI

Computing

Computers donated from the developed world are both fuelling and feeding an appetite for computers in Africa where a new machine could cost more than a year's wages.

The Masai Mara seems like the middle of nowhere; great expanses of land spread out in all directions.

The Masai are famous the world over for their exuberant dancing, but now you are just as likely to find them sat in front of a PC monitor.

Five months ago Kilgoris Secondary School was one of the first within 100km to get computers.

For the Masai schoolchildren that was the first time they ever used a PC.

This equipment is simply too expensive for most school budgets, and while a Kenyan minister officially opened this computer lab, his government did not provide the computers.

The story of how thousands of Africans are learning technology skills starts at a lock-up warehouse in North London.

It is the home of Computer Aid International, which gives old PCs a new life in developing nations.

The man behind the project receives more than 2,000 computers a month, many of which might otherwise have been thrown away.

We've reached the point where we've got more computers than we have organizations to distribute them to.

Tony Roberts, head of Computer Aid International "We get donations of literally hundreds of computers at a time from universities, large corporations, right the way through to individual donations of a single machine that someone's brought from their home," said Tony Roberts, head of Computer Aid International.

"All of those computers are extensively tested, cleaned and professionally refurbished here in the workshop.

"We select only the highest specification machines that we know are going to be working for another three or four years, and those are the machines that we provide to organizations overseas.

"We've reached the point where we've got more computers than we have organizations to distribute them to, so our priority is to identify new organizations in developing countries that can receive and distribute high volumes of computers. Most donated computers are given to educational establishments "But importantly, alongside that they need to be providing training and technical support, to make sure every computer that we send is made productive use of."

At any one time up to 1,000 computers in the Computer Aid warehouse have been refurbished and are ready to go.

Many go to Latin America and Eastern Europe, but the vast majority - eight out of 10 - are sent to Africa.

Since Computer Aid started, more than 40,000 second-hand computers have been sent to African nations.

One of Africa's two main distribution centers is in Nairobi. Here, they are checked over again and operating systems are installed.

African charities then take on a supervisory role, promising to maintain the PCs and teach others how to use them.

Many end up in outlying areas like Kilgoris in Kenya, thanks to a special school charity.

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