Computers without Borders opens a wide array of new and exciting opportunities for American college and university students interested in “paying it forward” and enriching their own lives as well as those of impoverished students throughout the world. From hands-on technical experience with the CWB computer re-use initiative to travel abroad and internship programs, there are limitless possibilities for our student partners. Great projects not only deliver high value to the communities they are focused on, they also deliver exceptional educational experiences to those who participate. They bring valuable excitement, experience and value to CWB’s student partners in the USA, and they encourage participation and drive membership. CWB’s US students and other partners report that participation in CWB projects is a life-changing experience. Some computer science students observed that before getting involved with CWB they had never actually “gone inside the box” of a computer before! Oftentimes there is no substitute for actual “hands on” experience with whatever product you are dealing with. For others, this means gaining an understanding of the profound levels of poverty that exist in the world, and how computer and Internet-enhanced education and related activities can make a positive difference in the lives of those who live in the developing world. Many participants report gaining a deeper understanding of both modern technology and education, including all aspects of the process from computer procurement, Internet connectivity and maintenance to teaching and providing exciting educational modules and content. Transformational educational experiences are also the result of working together in teams of students, faculty, and our “customers” in the developing world.
As a number of the other groups trying to provide computers to the developing world have found, simply sending equipment overseas without the necessary supporting infrastructure can be a futile endeavor. The equipment will only be effective for furthering the education of students in the developing nations if the local teachers are trained to teach the students how to effectively use computers and the Internet. In addition, it will be important to not only provide state-of-the art computer lab curricula appropriate for each grade level, but also to promote the integration of technology and computer science into every aspect of primary and secondary education in each target country.
Computer Donation Initiatives
Many businesses are willing to donate used equipment to a good cause rather than just send their computers to a nameless recycler or disposal facility. Anyone who is has used equipment lying about would be interested to know that it can be refurbished and re-used for a good cause. Donors can be furnished with charitable donation receipts, and can check with their accountants or check the prices similar used equipment is being sold for on E-bay or Craig’s List for guidance on the appropriate amount to be claimed for the donation. Schools, banks, businesses, government agencies, law offices, insurance and realty companies and countless other organizations can be approached for donations. In many cases the CWB affiliate colleges and universities can even receive used equipment from their own staff and personnel to be used in the CWB re-use and refurbishing initiative. CWB affiliates can even sponsor neighborhood recycling drives to further the greater environmental good while simultaneously receiving hundreds of used computers generally capable of being refurbished and re-used for several more years by impoverished students throughout the world.
We believe that strategic alliances with charities in our target nations will be instrumental in helping us further our mission of shipping refurbished computers to impoverished schools in the developing world. By establishing relationships with established charities already operating in our target countries we hope to be able to combine ocean shipments for greater economies. In addition, we hope to be able to take advantage of the infrastructure that many of these charities have already built in many cases over periods of many years as well as possibly participate in joint fund raising activities. The initiative being introduced by Mayan Families in 2014 to help optimize the use of future computer donations can serve as the model for the entire developing world. The program has been developed to insure that donated computers are used to their fullest potential. Without plans such as this in place, it is likely that donated computers may be deployed to schools and communities where computer literacy is limited among both teachers and students. In cases such as this, the donated computers would be highly underutilized as few, if anyone, in the community would be able to use or to operate them.
Colleges and Universities
The computer science department of every major U.S. college and university are invited to participate in the CWB program as “affiliates”. At the outset, CWB established a goal of having 193 college/university “hubs” in the program, each surrounded by as many “spokes” as can be solicited to join the program. Since the United Nations currently recognizes 194 sovereign nations it is envisioned that each “hub” will represent or “adopt” a different country. The first colleges participating in CWB will encouraged to adopt developing countries where computer education is more urgently needed. Each collegiate affiliate will be urged to emulate the successful program pioneered by the Cornell Computer Reuse Association and consider integrating the … of CWB with as many relevant courses as possible (i.e., languages, geography, history, anthropology, art, music, etc.). Study abroad and internship programs will be strongly encouraged, with our strong conviction that the CWB program will be a “life changing event” for many students.
Secondary and Elementary Schools
Secondary and elementary schools in proximity to participating colleges and universities are invited to participate in CWB as “associates”. We believe that the education of secondary and elementary school students will be significantly enriched by involvement with the exciting work Computers Without Borders is accomplishing.
After procuring, refurbishing and shipping computers and related accessories to target schools in the developing world, trained technician interns will travel abroad to assist with unloading, setting up and facilitating local Internet connections for the local schools. In addition, while visiting the target countries the interns will also be able to train and certify the individuals who will be providing technical support and maintenance for the local schools. An important aspect of the computer refurbishment component of the technician program will be to assure that all hard drives will be “wiped” to US Department of Defense (DOD) standards so donors will be confident that no confidential data can be viewed by others.