Computer reuse charity calls on companies to donate old PCs

18 May 2012

Camara Education, the Irish charity that refurbishes computers and loads them with educational software for schools in Ireland, Africa and Jamaica, has issued a call for individuals and businesses to donate their unwanted computers to the social enterprise.

That’s because Camara Education’s waiting list has, for the first time, exceeded 1,000 schools in Africa, with the charity now in need of more PCs to meet the demand.

Camara Education CEO John Fitzsimons said today the charity is predicting that over 250,000 computers will be discarded in Ireland this year.

In particular he is appealing for companies that may have old computers stashed away to consider giving them to Camara so the charity can repair them and send them out to disadvantaged schools.

“Some companies have computers sitting in store rooms, becoming obsolete. We’re actively encouraging firms to think about how these computers could be reused in education.”

In need of 24,000 computers

He said that Camara just needs 12pc, or around 24,000 computers, this year to meet the demand.

“Half of these 250,000 computers could be reused in schools that cannot afford to buy new technology,” he said.

Here in Ireland, Camara provided refurbished PCs to 70 schools and educational institutes last year. As well as this, the social enterprise delivers computers to disadvantaged schools in Jamaica and Africa.

He says that schools pay a small fee for each computer.

As for companies that wish to give computers to Camara, Fitzsimons said that what generally happens is the charity sends out a courier to pick up the computers and then wipes all of the data off the PCs at its Chapelizod base.

“Some companies prefer us to come out to wipe out all of the data from the PCs in-house. This would be especially true of pharma and financial service firms,” he said.

When Camara gets the computers, it wipes all data on all machines to US Department of Defense standard. Staff at the charity, along with volunteers, then load these computers with educational software and dispatch them out to schools.

As well as this the charity offers teacher training, plus technical support, to the schools.

Local volunteers in seven African countries

In Africa for instance, Camara has local hubs in seven countries to help schools improve their digital literacy. These hubs are in Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Lesotho and Zambia.

“We depend on local volunteers there who work with the schools,” he explained.

And the way the model works is schools have to pay a fee for the computers, but Fitzsimons said the aim is to keep the cost as low as possible.

“As part of our social enterprise model all schools are prepared to contribute financially for the Camara package,” he said.

Camara has hubs in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Belfast. However, Fitzsimons said a nationwide collection service is available for larger volumes.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic