Despite Rwanda ban, Camara receives top global award

3 Mar 2011

The Global Development Network has placed Camara Rwanda first in the category of ‘Most Innovative Development Project.’ The company was honoured despite Rwanda’s current ban on importing second-hand computers.

Camara Rwanda’s GDN win is one of the most prestigious global accolades in the charity sector.

Beating more than 250 other international projects, the award includes a prize of US$30,000, sponsored by the Japanese Development Institiute (JICA), and access to other possible funding of up to US$200,000.

Irish charity Camara Education uses imported second-hand computers to educate and train African students and teachers.

The win comes as the Rwandan government has banned the importation of all second-hand IT equipment, in an effort to tackle the problem of electronic waste in the country.

Camara Education has a rigorous e-waste strategy, having recently set up the ‘East African Recycling Centre’, and it has spoken out against the decision.

The charity stressed the value of high-quality used computers to educational development in these regions and called for a more measured approach to tackle the problem of e-waste.

Camara Education provides low-cost equipment with open-source educational software, training (including training in maintenance), technical support, ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the technology.

E-waste strategy

Since it started in 2005, Camara Education has sent out nearly 20,000 refurbished computers for use in some 925 African schools. The charity’s e-waste strategy ensures the computers are returned to Camara at the end of life for proper disposal.

The organisation said it believes an indiscriminate ban on all second-hand computers will marginalise schools, businesses, health centres and community organisations that are using this affordable technology to break the cycle of poverty within their countries.

Eddy Rwagasore, CEO of the Camara Rwanda Hub, said: “The Camara computers positively impact whole communities, so it is in everyone’s interest to find a compromise to the situation.”

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