Computer Aid International PCs supporting medical students in Ethiopia

Over the past three years Computer Aid International has supplied computers to the Africa Medical College in Ethiopia. The college provides medical education on a host of topics from medicine degrees to comprehensive nursing training.

The computers have been used for classroom teaching and learning, internet access and for use in the offices. A fourth year pharmacy student, Abera Bexabih noted, “I work much faster when I prepare and arrange my notes and I communicate easily with my colleagues using wireless internet services.”

Staff are pleased as well, as administrator Solomon Shawel comments, “the students now have easy access to e-books, I can collect, process and store data about the college and I can easily communicate with the outside world.”

To read case studies on the recipients of Computer Aid International computers visit our website.

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15 years of ICT for Development: a reflection

Last week Computer Aid International celebrated providing its 200,000th computer to organisations working in education and development in more than 100 countries.

Computer Aid’s Founder and previous CEO Tony Roberts reflects on changes in the field of information and communication technologies for Development (ICT4D) over the last fifteen years.

In 1997 when we founded Computer Aid International, silver-haired senior managers in the London headquarters of international development agencies were sceptical of our suggestions. They thought us fanciful in seeing a role for ICT on the ground in development (despite using computers themselves at work and at home). It certainly wasn’t the way development was done back then.

Undeterred, experience on the ground told us that the level of demand for ICTs from operational development worker was significant and fast-growing. Local field staff were eager to apply ICT to enhance service delivery and empower communities.

We made mistakes though; a technology-centred approach limited the value of some initiatives. Hype and enthusiasm often proceeds the application of sound development practice in the arena of technology and development. This is equally true whether you look at Computer Aid in those early days, the telecentre movement later on, MIT’s one-laptop-per-child initiative, the bubble of mobile apps for development or some of the current activity around Open Data and transparency.

In the cycle of innovation diffusion and adoption, hype precedes substance; technology-push precedes genuine demand-pull; and technology-centred precedes people-centred development.

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Computer Aid launches an advocacy guide on e-waste

Computer Aid recently launched a guide on how to conduct e-waste advocacy at the UN’s Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. The guide is intended for NGOs and civil society groups anywhere in the world to help them campaign for improvement to current systems in their countries and put an end to the harmful social and environmental impacts of electronics.

The problem

The statistics are scary, the United Nations Environment Programme estimates that globally we generate around 50 million tonnes of e-waste per year and, with current trends in electronics design and manufacture driving rapid replacement cycles, this only seems like it will continue to get worse.

Why is Computer Aid concerned?

Of particular concern to Computer Aid is the impact that e-waste has on communities and the environment in developing countries, where we predominantly work. Computer Aid exists to reduce poverty through practical ICT solutions and we work in some of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the world, providing ICT for use in educations, health and agriculture. However, as well as providing essential IT to these communities, we want there to be safe and environmentally friendly facilities for them to get their electronic waste recycled, once it has reached its end of life.
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IT’s not a pretty picture: Computer Aid reveals new research on IT disposal in the UK

Computer Aid has today launched the first of its two part series of research into how large UK companies dispose of their IT. The research was made possible through the generous support of Vanson Bourne who donated their time and resources to help us better understand the trends in PC disposal and also raise awareness of the issues around current disposal practices.

Vanson Bourne’s team of researchers surveyed 100 senior IT decision makers in companies with over 1,000 employees across the UK and the results were very concerning. The full overview can be found here but key findings include:

  • 1 in 5 senior IT decision makers in the UK are “not confident” that zero per cent of their company’s unwanted IT goes to landfill
  • Only 14 % follow best practice IT disposal and send their working IT for reuse
  • But 83% of those who don’t reuse would like to do so if possible
  • 542 PCs disposed of per large company per year

Dumping e-waste in landfill is illegal as well as incredibly damaging for human health and the environment, so it’s very worrying that 20 per cent of our largest companies cannot be sure their own PCs don’t get sent to landfill. You can see the impact of the illegal trade of electronic waste in the Environment Investigation Agencies special report titled System Failure, the UK’s harmful trade in electronic Waste.
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Info sharing & training workshop in the DRC a success!

Across much of Africa, healthcare provision faces a number of barriers to improving services. Health clinics are few and far between. Where they do exist, they lack specialist doctors and access to vital services such as lab tests. Attrition is high as doctors feel overburdened, isolated from their peers and see no opportunities for training and development and in many countries, the majority leave for better opportunities in cities.

One aspect of Computer Aid’s work involves sending computers as well as e-health equipment such as scanners, digital cameras and printers to rural healthcare practices to facilitate knowledge sharing sessions between healthcare professionals. For example, having scanners enables doctors to send images of patient cases to specialists in urban centres and seek advice as to how best treat them.

Another way in which ICT can help doctors is by providing a way for them to document cases and, this is important for doctors treating cleft lips since this is required by the reconstructive surgery sponsor Smile train to fund projects.
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