Charity Camara brings its model of digital literacy skills and computer reuse to Silicon Valley

21 Aug 2012

Pictured: a Camara volunteer refurbishing computer equipment in San Jose

A charity that over the past seven years has worked to bring digital literacy skills to disadvantaged areas of East Africa, Jamaica and Ireland through a unique blend of computer refurbishment and social awareness has opened a depot in the heart of the computer chip business, Silicon Valley.

Camara, which was founded by Cormac Lynch, has to date supplied over 33,000 computes to schools and other educational organisations benefiting some 350,000 children.

Camara has opened its US office and refurbishment facility in San Jose, the ‘Capital of Silicon Valley’ in a strategic move to jumpstart computer donations in the US for reuse in schools and communities in poverty-stricken regions around the world who lack the computers, IT equipment, resources and knowledge necessary to remain proficient and competitive in an increasingly digital world. 

With a goal of collecting 600 computers in Silicon Valley by the end of 2012, Camara plans to refurbish these computers in its San Jose warehouse and ship them to low income schools in Ethiopia.

Turning digital debris into gold

Currently, with over 1,000 schools and 750,000 students in Ethiopian, Kenyan and Zambian schools waiting for computers, the demand for Camara’s services outstrips the available supply.

Camara’s US hub hopes to cultivate relationships with technology companies that will also benefit by the “green” aspects of the program.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 29.9 million desktops and 12 million laptops were discarded in 2007 in the US alone—equalling over 112,000 computers being discarded per day.  

Of this number, only 18pc were recycled. Camara advocates the refurbishing and reuse of computers as the best alternative to throwing them away and the first step that should be taken before recycling. 

“On top of educating the poor to end generations of ongoing poverty, a cycle that is increasingly important to break as globalisation continues to ‘shrink the world’ making the interdependence among nations more evident than ever before, there are also huge advantages to the program in terms of protecting the environment,” Lynch explained.

“Camara helps stem the growing global problem of e-waste and build up of toxic materials in landfills or even more damaging to the environment, the shipment of used electronics and components overseas to incinerators that are often without any environmentally protective measures in place,” Lynch added.

US CEO Blake Burke explained further: “While we focus on the educational aspect of our program, Camara is also doing its part to help remedy global social, economic and environmental problems as well, issues that affect us all.

“We are confident that as more of the major tech companies come on board with Camara that we’ll not only meet but exceed our goal of shipping 600 computers from Silicon Valley to Ethiopia by the end of 2012.”

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