A visit to Computer Aid’s partners in Ethiopia

Children at the Cistercian School in Ethiopia using PCs donated to Computer Aid and distributed by Computer Aid’s partner the EKTTS

Partners and partnerships are the lifeblood of Computer Aid and all that we do, and visiting Ethiopia this week to meet with Computer Aid’s existing and prospective partners shows both the problems and the possibilities.

A very full day started at the Axum in Addis Ababa with a press conference on Computer Aid’s visit and our search for new partners to extend the reach of information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) across Ethiopia. Computer Aid has supplied Ethiopians with about 1,000 PCs or laptops every year of our existence, to such widely varying partners as EKTTS (Ethiopian Knowledge and Technology Transfer Society), GACD (Global Action for Community Development), Prospect Ethiopia, and Consortium for Christian Relief and Development Association (CCRDA), as well as smaller beneficiaries – the Menelik II Secondary School, Oromia Regional Government, Amhara Development Association, Information Technology Development Association, Tigray Disabled Veterans Association, and Welfare for Street Mothers and Children.

Computer Aid’s ICT4D Press Conference

The past few years have been difficult for partners in Ethiopia keen on enabling its people with ICT4D.  A new law was introduced in 2009 imposing requirements for non-governmental organisations (NGOs).  Amongst these are restrictions on public campaigning and on the amount that a charity can spend each year on running costs.  As technology is often procured in quantity to enable organisation-wide upgrades, new software releases or new developments, this is very difficult for our partner organisations – they are faced with either procuring technology incrementally, year by year, meaning the benefits of full introduction can be delayed with the added problem, at the speed that technology changes, of 4 different sets of kit over 4 years of purchases, or not procuring it at all.  This is without any other problems that our partners experience, such as lack of foreign currency, shipping and importing restrictions, needing to gather funds prior to ordering, etc.

Yet, despite these problems, delivering computers direct to schools and other institutions is difficult without a constant local presence.  Who else investigates needs, specifies requirements, consults with communities, commissions Computer Aid, receives and deploys equipment, trains and supports users?

This was illustrated by our two following meetings.  One was with CCRDA – an organisation that supports 350 different smaller organisations and NGOs. There is no better way to support ICT4D across a spectrum of society than engaging with a partner with so many members and a sympathetic partner who shares Computer Aid’s vision and way of working.  However, they have found it difficult, coping with some internal problems and the new regulations, to engage with Computer Aid as regularly as they need to – our contact assured us that while the need of their member organisations was enormous and ever present, the difficulties were large and constant.

Mr. Kebede with the Computer Aid team and donated IT equipment

EKTTS (Ethiopian Knowledge and Technology Transfer Society) was the second partner that we met.  EKTTS are long lasting partners who signed an agreement with us several years ago.  They were founded by 2 Ethiopeans seeking to develop ‘human capital’ through obtaining and distributing information and ICT.  They receive and deliver millions of books in the country, mainly from international partners, and mostly from the US, UK and Canada.  And they receive donated computers from Computer Aid. They outlined their plans for the next 3 years, and they are seeking to extend their reach and speed up distribution of ICT, which they wanted to discuss with us.  As they deliver directly to schools – the government has prioritised education in Ethiopia with spending totalling 23% of the national budget – and the government plan to have a 15 PC computer lab in every school, this is exactly the partner and programme that Computer Aid exists to support.

To paraphrase Computer Aid’s founder, Tony Roberts on this blog a few months ago, 90% of information and communication technology for development is about people, and 10% about the technology.  Amongst the most important people for Computer Aid is our Partners.”

Tom Davis, Chief Executive, Computer Aid International

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One thought on “A visit to Computer Aid’s partners in Ethiopia

  1. “A visit to Computer Aids partners in Ethiopia | Computer Aid
    International blog” was indeed a very good blog post.
    If it had more pics it would definitely be quite possibly far better.
    Thanks ,Phil

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