Microsoft boss has a novel plan to end school computers crisis

29 Sep 2008

A novel plan to stop businesses throwing away old computers and instead give them to schools could sow the seeds of change which will put Irish schools where they belong, at the forefront of global technology.

Microsoft Ireland general manager Paul Rellis estimates that over 200,000 PCs will be disposed of this year by Irish businesses.

Rellis said that although only 2,000 PCs have so far been saved and refurbished via the Microsoft Authorised Refurbisher (MAR) programme, a large proportion of the 200,000 PCs could be productively put to use by schools, community groups and charities.

He also argued that lengthening the life of computers can help companies reduce their environmental impact.

“Companies typically replace their PCs on a three- or four-year cycle,” said Rellis. “While an old PC may not longer by useful for the business, it could continue to have a productive life providing access to technology for students and charities across the country. This serves two purposes, helping companies reduce their environmental impact and secondly, closing the digital divide.

“The MAR programme provides a great way for companies to ensure that a PC stays out of landfill and has a longer, more impactful life. I would urge people in business everywhere to consider these options, rather than simply dumping the obsolete machines.”

The programme is run by Microsoft but the authorised third-party refurbishers are Irish companies and organisations that look after the PCs and ensure they are recycled or channelled to schools and community groups.

The biggest issue today is ensuring there is a sufficient supply of old PCs to meet the huge demand from schools and local communities.

“Access to technology plays a vital role in encouraging students to pursue careers in areas such as science, technology and engineering,” Rellis continued.

“This is a hugely cost-effective way for schools to increase their computer stock. For non-profit groups, utilising technology can help deliver greater operational efficiencies and enhanced provision of services,” he said.

Martin Reddy at Rehab Recycle, one of the largest refurbishers in Ireland, believes there is a great opportunity for Irish businesses in the programme.

“Right now, the biggest challenge is securing a supply of PCs to meet the incredible demand from schools and charities. If we can get suitable PCs, we can ensure that we can get PCs into local communities, meaning unsuitable PCs are properly recycled,” Reddy added.

Companies can find a full list of PC refurbishers at

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years