Wednesday, July 20, 2005

COMPUTERS FOR AFRICA : Very Straightforward, Very Effective

When I posted the article about Computer Aid International on the 24th of May of this year I wondered why there was no U.S. counterpart to that UK organization. Little did I know at the time that Computers for Africa had been shipping refurbished used computers from Omaha Nebraska since 2000. They not only refurbish them, they networks them, and ship them ready-to-set-up to non-profit organizations in Africa.

How easy it is to not know all that is going on in the non-profit world.

Setting a priority for "the most disadvantaged groups, generally youth and women," Computers For Africa sends its best computer to organizations that help those segments of the recipient communities, as well as organizations that work for positive social development.

Seeking to "work toward goals that bring practical, measurable improvements to African communities" Computers For Africa." Help(s) bring technology to some of the world's most disadvantaged people, technology that gives hope for a better future."

Computers For Africa has a very straightforward game plan. They:

Refurbish and transport used North American computers to Africa

Set up technology centers for the underprivileged of Africa.

Help establish liaisons between CFA labs and African sources of educational, technological and economic support.

Promote U.S. involvement in international issues by providing a hands-on volunteer opportunity and partnership with an African community

Their operative guidelines are straightforward as well. They:

- Seek concrete outcomes

- Work through trusted leaders

- Allocate money for on-site staff education and program development

- Keep it simple and least expensive to repair

- Focus on narrowing social divides

- Build community and network people for change

- Consider the special needs of women

While CFA has donated over 900 computers to some 43 recipient organizations between 2002 - 2004 below is a partial listing of those recipients and their locations

Kampala, Uganda
Sharing Youth Center
Nsambya Catholic Women's Guild
Human Rights Concern (HURICO)
Serenity Center
Council for Econ. Empowerment of Women (CEEWA)
St. Mbaaga Major Seminary
Ggaba Naional Seminary
Kisubi Minor Seminary
Nabirumba Community Self-Help Organization
Makerere Modern Secondary School
Ulrika Institute of Home Economics
Kamwokya Christian Caring Center

Gulu, Uganda
Sacred Heart Seminary - Lacor
Gulu Computer Training and Communications Center

Bishop Njenga Girls S.S.S. - Webuye
Chekalini Youth Training Centre - Webuye
Hekima College - Nairobi

Loyola High School - Dar es Salaam
Nyakahoja Computer Training Center - Mwanza

Evangelical Church of Zimbabwe S.S.S. - Chinhoi

CFA says that they receive many of their referrals for recipients from organizations that have a "trusted track record" with them. However they do receive applications from non-profit organizations that are unknown to them. These applications are taken over the Internet. Once the application is received Board Members or agents of CFA make an onsite visit in order to verify that the applicant would be an appropriate recipient.

CFA focuses on banks, hospitals, universities, insurance companies, the military and other large organizations that dispose large quantities of used computers at one time. Organizations that operate on a for-profit basis are eligible to receive a tax deduction for its donation because of CFA's tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status. Another source of computers for CFA are local refurbishers and resellers of hardware, who often receive more hardware than they can realistically use. These refurbishers and resellers can also donate the excess to CFA for a tax benefit.

CFA is often able to accept and ship computers that are not good enough either to sell on the U.S. market or to be used in a local charity but are still adequate for use by recipients in Africa.

In order to maintain a level of efficiency, CFA does not accept hardware donations from individuals. On their web site they explain that (c)ollecting 'one-sy two-sy' computers from friends and neighbors is generally easy, but refurbishing them into labs is not. Also, when they have multiple units of the same model of computer, they are able to interchange parts in order to extend the live of the hardware.

Also on their web site they have a FAQ page that actually tells you how they ship computers to Africa, and how you can too.

As usual, my promise to keep these articles short prevents me from going into greater detail about this Wonderful organization. So click on the link to their web site and see how an engineer and a former missionary in Nebraska (which is in the middle of the middle of the U.S. for those folk located in other parts of the global community) came to become engaged in this tremendously wonderful work.


Imnakoya said...

Oscar,as always, this is another very helpful and insightful post! However, I wonder why there is a concentration of CFA's activities in East Africa...maybe there is something the NGOs in these countries are doing that others need to know and learn. Thanks.

Ruth Leacock said...

Thank you for your wonderful review of our organization. We hope our work, and especially the FAQ page on our we site, will inspire others to do the same.

CFA is as much about relationships as it is about hardware. We try to leave any African area we work in much stronger as a community--connecting its schools, educating their teachers, getting them on a virtual private network together if possible.

We keep our standards high and never send junk. The poorest of the poor simply cannot afford it.

Since we are a small organization, we have focused on only a few countries, doing research and follow up as well as providing ITC support to the communities.

Thanks again for the review.

Ruth Leacock, co-founder, Computers for Africa