Friday, August 05, 2005

WCE : Computers, Computers, Computers!

Those who have been following this Blog for a while will remember articles about Computer Aid International, Computers For Africa and Computers For Uganda. More and more organizations are attacking the digital divide by making more computers available in the developing world. World Computer Exchange (WCE) is another one of those organizations. And based on the information on their web site, they do their job extremely well.

WCE says that it "is an international educational nonprofit focused on helping the world's poorest youth to bridge the disturbing global divides in information, technology and understanding." They say that they keep donated computers "out of landfills" and give them "new life connecting youth to the Internet in developing countries."

This group has three areas of focus:

1. Capacity Building Assistance
2. Computers
3. Cultural Exchanges

1. Using their own volunteers and strategic allies, WCE helps their partners and universities in developing nations to build: "information and communication technologies (ICT) capacity in technology maintenance, telecentre management, and teacher training, as well as the development, adaptation, and sharing of educational content for local use."

2. In order to connect young people in developing nations to the Internet years sooner than would otherwise be possible, WCE makes available low-cost computers and software for this purpose.

3. In order to foster improved understanding among students in different countries, WCE acts as a broker in establishing sister-school collaborations and online website development connections.

In sum, WCE is "Helping to bridge the global digital divide for our kids and for our future." As their Home Page so accurately states.

Since its beginnings in 2001, WCE has connected 1,388 schools and centers with 616,000 young people to the Internet through 14,339 donated computers - with approved plans to connect another half million youth.

WCE gathers computers from: Baltimore, Boston, Boulder, Burlington VT, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Dallas, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New Haven, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Providence, Richmond, San Francisco, Seattle, Stamford, Stillman OK, Toronto, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Washington DC, White Plains, Wilmington NC, Winnipeg. We have representatives in Geneva, Helsinki, Stockholm, and Tokyo. They also have, sister-schools, and tech volunteers in many of those locations as well.

In turn, they have 279 partners in 48 countries. Those countries are: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bénin, Bolivia, Bosnia, Burundi, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, India, Iraq, Kenya, Liberia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Sénégal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Viet Nam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Twenty-eight of these 48 countries are either on the African continent or in the Caribbean.

In addition to what has already been listed, they also provide 103 volunteer online Program Officers for the 48 countries where they have Partners. And they provide online 'help desk' support to schools and centers in the three areas of:

Entrepreneurial Telecentre Management, and
Development of Local Content

WCE is the largest non-profit in North America that supplies tested used computers to schools and community organizations in developing countries.

Because of the success of its programs WCE is recognized by and works with UNESCO, UNDP, USAID, World Economic Forum, and Peace Corps Volunteers. They also have a global network of organizations and individuals to help them carry out their programs to which they refer as their "consortium of twenty Strategic Allies"

WCE constantly acknowledges the assistance it receives from individuals and other organizations that make it possible for them to accomplish their goals because they are able to "leverage the resources of businesses, strategic allies, volunteers, and universities to build the capacity of their in-country partners to work with local schools, teachers, and students to capitalize the value of the Internet as a bridge to new resources, opportunities, and understanding."

WCE has also developed the African Universities Initiative to be a part of The Global Digital Divide Initiative of The World Economic Forum. Under this initiative, ten universities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Moçambique, Nigeria, Sénégal, Togo, Uganda and Zambia; and a consortium of twelve educational development nonprofits are collaborating to build the capacity of the universities to support the expansion of the educational use of the Internet on their campuses. Once this is accomplished, these universities will then each work with 30 local schools to build technology, content development, and telecentre management skills.

WCE also promotes the environmentally appropriate disposal of dead computers and monitors. So, their work is helping the planet on an environmental plane as well.

WCE's in-country partners develop viable plans for how to connect and maintain the computers provided by WCE, and they also raise funds and/or in-kind contributions in order to help to support the program. WCE believes that this 'investment' by the in-country partners "ensures a greater likelihood of success, builds respect and self esteem, and fosters a sense of ownership that effects broader changes necessary to create educational and economic transformation."

WCE has connected over a half million youth to the Internet, and they have approved implementation plans to connect another half million. The copies of the Partner's implementation plans for their projects can be seen at WEC's web site.

If you are interested in computers - either sending them, or receiving them - you really need to visit World Computer Exchange's website at: and see how this Class Act is helping to Bridge the Digital Divide.

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