Gladys Muhunyo is Africa Programme Manager at Computer Aid International and oversees an expanding programme of work in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. “Having previously worked for organisations that received PCs from Computer Aid, I knew that they were of the highest quality available”, she comments, “so I was delighted to be given the opportunity to contribute to the effort as the Programme Manager for Africa. Supplying over 80,000 professionally refurbished PCs is a remarkable practical achievement for a not-for-profit organisation, and I look forward to making my personal contribution toward a dramatic increase in the provision of affordable ICTs in education and social development across East Africa.”
eLA: What does Computer Aid International do and what is your role within the organisation?
Gladys Muhunyo: “Computer Aid International is a UK-based charity whose role is to provide professionally refurbished computers for ICT for Development (ICD4D) in developing countries. My role in the organisation is to oversee the expanding work in Africa in conjunction with regional programme officers, to manage programme tasks, and to coordinate with partners in western, central, eastern, and southern Africa. In addition to identifying educational institutions and any not-for-profit programmes that require professionally refurbished PCs, we get involved in the sustainability models of beneficiary programmes.”
eLA: How many computers have been distributed by CAI so far?
Gladys Muhunyo: “Computer Aid International has provided over 80,000 PCs to 105 countries, 75% of which are in Africa. We get Pentium III and IV computers that have been donated by UK organisations and charities, which are continuously purchasing newer machines.
While phone access has rapidly increased in the past decade in the less-developed economies – around a third of people there have now access to phones – PC ownership and Internet usage is rising much more slowly. Less than four percent of the people in Africa use the Internet.
The cost of a PC is often prohibitive for many in the developing world. The Information Society Report 2006 states that a computer can cost the equivalent of up to eight years’ income for an average person in Bangladesh, compared to less than a month’s salary for the average North American.
CAI provides a solution to this problem by sourcing donations of PCs from businesses for re-use in developing countries.”
eLA: To which countries have the PCs gone?
Gladys Muhunyo: “Approximately half of these PCs have gone to schools, providing ICT education to more than a million schoolchildren. We have also provided computers to universities, adult education centres, and to projects for out-of-school youth. In 2006, CAI increased its involvement in e-learning projects as e-learning reaches those who have traditionally found it difficult to access educational opportunities, such as women with young families and people living in remote rural areas. Through our cooperation with Sightsavers International, we have also send computers that are installed with adaptive technologies, thus allowing blind and visually impaired users to access written information or the Internet.
CAI is also working with Africa’s leading health development organisation, AMREF. In the ACCENTURE funded project, we have provided AMREF with 600 computers that have been put in hospitals around Kenya, allowing nurses to take part in an e-learning course.
CAI has sent computers to each of the 36 weather stations around Kenya, as well as Meteorological Offices in other countries. The computers are used to record and analyse weather data collected by the stations. This speeds up the analysis process, and the information on weather can be provided to those who need it, such as farmers, in a short time.”
eLA: How does CAI choose the recipients of the donated computers? Are there any special criteria?
Gladys Muhunyo: “Any not-for-profit organisation or educational institution is eligible to apply for computers from Computer Aid International. Applications can be made directly at www.computeraid.org or through the regional offices. Once approval has been granted, payment of £39 per PC plus shipping costs to the destination are required.”
eLA: How does CAI ensure that applicants really receive only useable technology?
Gladys Muhunyo: “Computer Aid only accepts donations of Pentium III and above. We then completely wipe out any data the machines might contain, refurbish them, and then check them. Only the best are released for distribution to developing countries. This ensures that no unusable equipment leaves London. Any waste is recycled within Europe.”
eLA: What has been your most remarkable experience with working at CAI so far?
Gladys Muhunyo: “It’s been quite rewarding to attain a large-scale distribution of professionally refurbished PCs in Africa over the last two years, but even more positive is the sense of achievement from seeing the impact these computers have had on the projects in which they are deployed. In education, health, meteorology, and agriculture creating solutions that sustain development not only improves livelihood but creates a new dimension to existence. Being part of the delivery and bringing together users with diverse needs is incredible. The experience of being part of an international organisation that works to better its partners in bridging the digital divide is remarkable.
Computer Aid is continuously identifying partners who make affordable educational and development solutions with professionally refurbished PCs available. Computer Aid works with NGOs, school-based networks, women’s organisations, universities and research institutions, governments, and other implementing agencies.”
eLA: Gladys, many thanks for your time.
For more information, please go to the website www.computeraid.org.