Refurbished IT – Waste or Product? Obstacles to the Digital Divide

How IT waste is legally defined or simply understood will increasingly cause conflicts. UK regional differences, lack of global consistency on e-waste laws and illegal practices all compromise the perceived and actual value of old IT. Yet computer reuse can be 20 times more energy efficient than recycling – so how can this be called waste?

At this year’s ICT for Sustainability Conference in London we hosted a roundtable discussion centering on this issue, encouraging a discussion from all sides. Chairing the day’s discussion was Phil Conran of 360 Environmental.

Upgrading to replace ICT equipment with the latest technology is ever-present in developed countries, resulting in Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) becoming one of the largest growing waste streams. The demand for equipment to address the growing digital divide is ongoing as well, but with governmental regulations in Europe imposing requirements to recycle items deemed as ‘waste’ rather than refurbish and reuse them, are we missing an opportunity to extend the life of good equipment, mitigate a growing waste problem, and make positive change in communities with limited access to ICT?

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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.

October round-up at Computer Aid International

Successful first open-day at the warehouse

We refurbish computers at our warehouse in North London

We opened up the warehouse to our donors to see exactly what goes on at our warehouse. Guests took a tour of the warehouse, saw the data wiping and refurbishment process from start to finish and heard from our projects team about where our computers go. If you would like to attend the next workshop on the 21st November, you can register by visiting

Setting up a stall at the National Archives

On 12th September, The National Archives kindly asked us to exhibit at their eco-day. Green suppliers were invited to share with staff and the public about how they are supporting the National Archives with their sustainability programme. The day proved to be a great way of engaging with all manner of stakeholders on the topic of ICT refurbishment.

Latest receivers of computers In October

Our donated computers departed for a number not-for-profit organisations including to:

• Schools in Zimbabwe through our partner the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet). UNESCO ASPnet was Founded in 1953, it is a global network of more than 9,000 educational institutions in 180 countries. Member institutions – ranging from pre-schools, primary, secondary and vocational schools to teacher training institutions – work in support of international understanding, peace, intercultural dialogue, sustainable development and quality education in practice.

• Computers For Schools Kenya (CFSK) where they are being used for schools in Kenya.

Students receiving Moodle training on Computer Aid computers at Stella Maris

• Stella Maris Polytechnic where they are being used to encourage and train students in ICT in Liberia.

• Advocacy Initiative for Development (AID) where they are being used to provide computer and ICT trainings to junior and senior secondary school students in Sierra Leone.

• Bwafwano Integrated Services Organisation (BISO) where they are being used for to provide an internet resource for the school and to assist teachers with preparation of lessons in Zambia.

Farewell CRTs We have now made the decision at Computer Aid International to no longer accept those large, cumbersome monitors, also known as CRTs. They have now become largely obsolete and the transportation costs have ensured that we can no longer send them over. They are also more expensive to recycle and so for these reasons we have to turn them down. To see what our current minimum spec for donated computers is please visit our website for equipment accepted.

The Making of ‘The Man Without a Laptop’

Computer Aid has recently launched an appeal for laptops. Large requests from the National Teacher’s Institute, Nigeria and The Oasis Group Foundation, Ghana who empower underprivileged societies have left us very short of donated laptops. To this end, we created a short film in order to try and engage potential laptop donors into using us to dispose of their unwanted or surplus ICT equipment. Continue reading

Guest blog from T-Herbet Johnson, ICT Supervisor at Stella Maris Polytechnic in Liberia.

Today’s post is written by a guest blogger, T-Herbet Johnson, ICT Supervisor at Stella Maris Polytechnic in Liberia. He highlights the value of donated computers from the UK’s City and Islington College.

‘Stella Maris has benefited in so many ways from the computers received from City and Islington College through Computer Aid.  Before we had only CRT monitors, which meant we had to use much more air conditioning in the labs.  They also took more power and more space in the labs.  Now that we have received flat screen monitors, we have been able to change the desks and increase the computer lab capacity from 21 to 33 machines.  This means we can accommodate more students at a time.

T-Herbert Johnson with his new computers

We use these computers to train students of different categories.  There are many students outside of IT that need computer knowledge in order to work in their different disciplines.  With these computers we were able to increase our capacity from two computers labs to three labs, one internet café and one testing centre.   You will see computers from City and Islington College in each of these facilities at Stella Maris.

All of the computers that we have received from the College are Pentium 4, this allowed us to upgrade as previously we were using only Pentium 3 machines. Continue reading