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Education The Almighty Buck

Finding IT Firms to Donate to Developing Countries? 82

Posted by Cliff
from the good-for-the-soul dept.
A Peace Corps Volunteer asks: "I am currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, Africa and we are looking for organizations to help us fund an IT project. Thus far we have only found orgs that like to either do their own projects or send old computers. There is a large group of experienced volunteers here who just need money to plan and execute projects with in country suppliers (it's amazing how much can be done with a couple thousand dollars on the local market). Does the Slashdot community have suggestions for organizations that like to help fund IT related projects in the developing world?"
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Finding IT Firms to Donate to Developing Countries?

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  • by phaggood (690955) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:06AM (#17172698) Homepage
    GeekCorps for tech help, Kiva for $$.

    http://www.geekcorps.org/ [geekcorps.org]
    http://www.kiva.org/ [kiva.org]
    • Thanks for the Kiva link, very interesting. I think that that's where my charity euros will be going next.

      As for getting financial aid from IT firms, I'd think that is very difficult. Firms will probably be either to small to deal much with charity, or too large to want to deal with small projects looking for $1000 in funding. But they might be sympathetic to employee initiatives.

      The firm I work for allows employees to donate work time to certain charitable projects or they will help with charity d
    • by quixote9 (999874)
      Strong second for geekcorps.org. They've done exactly what it sounds like you're wanting to do, and they've done it in parts of Africa. (Mali, I believe, for one. A very different environment and culture than Togo, but still.) Ethan Zuckerman [ethanzuckerman.com] is a card-carrying geek, was involved with geekcorps, and has dozens of really useful Africa- and IT-related links. On a tangential note, as someone who's lived in monsoonal, rainforest places, I'll bet the biggest problem won't be raising money, finding local tal
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...will donate Linux licences worth around 700 a piece... ;P
  • Money's a difficult thing; are you planning to use it to deploy Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Word, or are you planning to use it to deploy Linux and OpenOffice.org ?

    I imagine (though I don't know) that Microsoft might be willing to fund the former but not the latter; and that RedHat might be willing to fund the latter but not the former.

    So before expecting to be given money, you'd better make up your mind what you will do with it.

    Usually, corporations will give goods and services; and individuals will

  • by legoburner (702695) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:33AM (#17172856) Homepage Journal
    Instead of IT firms, why not organisations dedicated to it? www.computeraid.org are the biggest so perhaps they would help out with equipment. Perhaps some of the other larger agencies like the UN development team, oxfam (less likely since they focus on more basic needs), your own government, your current country's government, and then there are many others that like to be seen to give. Failing that phone Bono.
    • by Elvis77 (633162)
      I was just about to submit my response when I saw your post. I think you're 100% correct

      People who give money to third world projects want to know that it is being efficiently and effectively and they want to know that you're meeting a real need and really helping people.

      I know this is nothing like the same scale but I was involved in some volunteer IT work at my children's school and most of the other parents involved were looking for an opportunity to sell IT equipment to the school but after a while
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by knewter (62953)
        I took donations over to Ireland to set up a computer network for a Bible College there. I raised $10k or so in easily less than a week just by calling local businesses and asking for donations. I set it up so that they could donate to a local church and then the church funded me, so they got easy tax deduction without my having to set up a non-profit, etc.

        So I'm saying literally start calling people around. I have a lot of practice raising donations by phone, but it's always a straightforward process.
        • by lpret (570480)
          I would second this. Many companies are able and willing to donate. I too have raised money (for underprivileged areas in Texas) and found the response to be staggering. Also, don't count out small companies. The single largest donation I received was from a small company with 30 employees.

          I would also second the effort to go through a pre-existing non-profit as that will save you all sorts of headaches.

  • EWB (Score:2, Informative)

    by EaglemanBSA (950534)
    Engineers Without Borders http://ewb-usa.org/ [ewb-usa.org] might be able to help. We just started a program in Ghana. Best of luck! My fiancee is in Cameroon with the Peace Corps.
  • GKP (Score:2, Informative)

    by sybreon (889440)
    i used to do some work for these people.. they might be able to point you in the right direction.. http://www.globalknowledge.org/ [globalknowledge.org]
  • by stevedcc (1000313) *
    Sorry to be suspicious, but whenever I see people asking for charity saying 'don't give us equipment or services, give us money', I get suspicious regarding what the money is really going to be used for. Maybe it's just me.
    • There is a large group of experienced volunteers here who just need money to plan and execute projects with in country suppliers

            Is this the Togo version of Nigerian 419ers?

        rd
      • by mcho (878145)

        Is this the Togo version of Nigerian 419ers?

        No, this is real -- they need over $12,000 to buy the licenses from Microsoft so that they can get their fortune out of Microsoft Money. Once they do that, then they'll split the fortune with you.

        See, if we all used open source software, we wouldn't have this problem...unless we have to pay SCO some kind of fee.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by EvanTaylor (532101)
      Used equipment is almost not worth deploying. At least for me. I am currently in Kumasi, Ghana, deploying a mixed network of Windows/Linux desktops, with a OpenBSD/Linux backend.

      The time consumed by supporting mixed donated equipment is massive. Also, when we asked for "networking equipment" we were given 14.4 modems (Practical Peripherals... ohh those were the days), telecom switches for phone setups, but also some pretty nice 16 and 24 port 10 and 10/100 rack switches.

      And the cost of getting the items
      • by grcumb (781340)

        The hard drives are the worst problem, we need APCs (for the servers) and power stabilizers to keep the drives from dying. They are all 5-10 years old ide drives, some old scsi drives.

        IME, the most cost-effective way to protect your equipment is to install a surge-suppressing switch with good grounding right at the point where the power company connects to the building. Lack of grounding and poor power is a huge problem here in the Pacific, but I've installed a few computer centres using this approach, an

        • We are using some "power stabilizers" right before the PC sockets (5000 watt support per stabilizer). It's saved us a few drives. We are however looking at setting up solar panels and hopefully switching to a DC-only lab. Thankfully the computer teacher here has quite a bit of experience with electrical engineering.

          Also having problems with grounding. We will probably have to overhaul the power system here anyway with the integration of solar power here I won't have any real hardware problems.

          I believe
      • Thanks for your comments! If I get the chance I would love to hop over and meet you/check out your center. How much longer will you be working there? Also, what org are you with?

        In response to some of your comments...

        I agree with your assessment of used equipment. After doing a lot of research I was turned off by the idea of getting used equipment donations from out of country. I think I've found a nice middle ground between buying brand new equipment (too expensive) and getting used stuff sent here (u
        • I skyped you, but having some conection issues right now. Africa online is difficult at times.

          Anyway, I am here until 2008 (January) most likely, and planning on coming back once a year for 5 years (1-2 months at a time, or as needed).

          If I can be any help with any experiences I've had, toss me an e-mail, or call me on skype.

          I'm not part of any organization, my Aunt is Ghanaian and my Uncle asked me to come help their school. I used to be a independent It consultant for small companies in Boston, but I was
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by nomadic (141991)
      Sorry to be suspicious, but whenever I see people asking for charity saying 'don't give us equipment or services, give us money', I get suspicious regarding what the money is really going to be used for. Maybe it's just me.

      I know, I mean "the Peace Corps"? They sound like some shady fly-by-night scam...has anyone even heard of them?
  • Benetech (Score:2, Informative)

    by MrAtoz (58719)
    They may or may not be relevant here, but you should check out Benetech [benetech.org], a California non-profit that is dedicated to "technology serving humanity". They have an impressive portfolio of technology projects in the areas of human rights, literacy, etc. And for programmers who live out there and are interested, they're hiring [benetech.org], too.
  • http://www.computersacrossborders.org/ [computersa...orders.org] This non-profit was started by the son of on of my law professors here in Boston. Their mission is to supply computers to communities in developing nations in exchange for a commitment to using renewable energy resources to power them. An organization I'm a member of, the Environmental Law Society, has just started to contact local firms and other corporations to solicit donations of used computers or funding to assist CAB.
  • Help our own first (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781)
    I am all for helping needy people. There are many needy people at home in the U.S. Why is it so en vogue to help foreign nations before some of our own starving people? There are some areas, like Flint, Michigan, for example, where most people are living below the poverty line. Are there any other people out there troubled by this? I, for one, am. Since we are in the season of giving, I implore you to consider donating to a charity that helps domestically. After all, how, in good conscience, can we h
    • by einar2 (784078)
      Why do you think it is more important to give to people in need in your own country?
      Are they "better" poor people?
      Do you judge people by their citicenship?
    • My brother once said something similar. He questioned why I needed to go halfway around the world to help people when there were people in our own backyard who needed help.

      Besides the obvious fun of it all - traveling to foreign lands, meeting foreign people, eating their amazing food, learning their language, ... - I responded by saying to him "America is the most powerful country in the world - we have the largest military and the largest economy. Given this, where does our backyard really end?" You ca
  • I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin (your next door neighbor!) with the same hassles of funding. Hope some good ideas come out of this!
    • Change begins with the individual. I own a small software company and we tithe ourselves [azalea.com]. Like most geeks we have too much h/w and s/w. Part of our give back is recycling perfectly useable technology to others like the Tibetan Technology Center. In addition to cold hard cash, we've sent them our "extra" 802.11g routers, adaptors, and antennas. We learned of this project on wired.com (or was it /.?). As long as we're going to pay Speakeasy for hosting and several DSL lines, why not piggyback DSL for two seni
    • Isn't it sad how the Peace Corps sends us over here and then leaves us few options for finding money to do real work?

      If you are ever in Sokode (about an hour south of Kara) feel free to give me a call! My contact info is on my blog at www.aaroninafrica.com.
  • Perhaps you'd find benefit from a /. review of your proposal as a supplement to the /. sponsor map. RPCV(Fiji '76)
    • I would love a review of my proposal. Sadly I don't have access to a hosting site over here (or back at home) and have nowhere to post it. I could send it to you if you would like to take a look at it. My contact info can be found on my blog at www.aaroninafrica.com.

      Thanks for the offer!
  • by mspohr (589790) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @12:14PM (#17174394)
    You just state that you want to do "an IT project". Not to discourage you but there are many eager techy people who want to parachute in and drop "an IT project" on a developing country without much thought to what they are trying to do and how it will be sustained after they leave.

    You do seem to have a start in that you want to use local people and hopefully these people will be trained well enough to continue the project after you leave.

    If you put together a thorough project proposal that includes all of the messy details of WHAT the project will do, HOW the information will be used to improve something, HOW it will do it, HOW it will be implemented, HOW it will be sustained, etc. they you may be able to apply for funding from the many NGOs and bilateral aid agencies that do have money and an interest in ----- (insert your project here).

    • by grcumb (781340)

      If you put together a thorough project proposal that includes all of the messy details of WHAT the project will do, HOW the information will be used to improve something, HOW it will do it, HOW it will be implemented, HOW it will be sustained, etc. they you may be able to apply for funding from the many NGOs and bilateral aid agencies that do have money and an interest in ----- (insert your project here).

      I wish it worked like that. I honestly do. Experience has taught me otherwise.

      The big problem that o

    • Thanks for your comments! I do in fact have a proposal. Check out the outline of the project at http://aaroninafrica.blogspot.com/2006/07/project. html [blogspot.com]. Sadly I don't have a hosting services while I am here. If you would like to see the entire proposal check out my contact info on my blog and send me your email address. I am hoping to get a friend to post the proposal somewhere. Hopefully that will be up soon.

      I do agree with you when you talk about the potential pit-falls of a project like this. You
      • by mspohr (589790)
        Arron, It does appear that you have thought carefully about your project and as a Peace Corps volunteer, you have made a longer term commitment to the community than is usual for the usual "parachute" aid.

        It appears that your project will focus on basic computer literacy skills and this will be a good thing for the community. It appears that you have also made a good effort to make the project sustaining with a combination of donations for startup and private/public sector funding.

        Best wishes to you an

  • Resources (Score:3, Informative)

    by zandermander (563602) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @12:40PM (#17174580)
    I was a PCV (Thailand) and also worked at PC HQ for a while doing fundraising. In addition to this, I raised over $25K while a Volunteer for various IT projects. This was back in the mid-90's when Volunteers were discouraged from this sort of thing because it was seen as "inappropriate". Luckily I have a rebellious streak.

    But I digress...

    The fabric of funding available in each country is different but you need money - not IT because you're going to go buy it. After I solicited donations of used equipment, I often found used equipment to be more trouble than it was worth and with a small amount of moeny I could go buy/build new stuff. So you're on the right track.

    Sources: try embassies. I solicited funds from EVERY embassy in Thailand. Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia gave me the most money. I expected a European country to give the most. Also look into Chambers of Commerce. There are a LOT of gov't aid organizations (USAID, for example) and NGOs out there who might fund you. Look into the USAID publication which lists everyone who receives money from them. It is published annually and is a GREAT resource for people who might fund you. Regional politicians are a good source - try the governor of your province. I developed a great relationship with mine and he helped me a LOT in several situations. Also try the Peace Corps Partnership Program. It's often slow but can provide a lot of money.

    Just because these people are giving you money, don't look at it as a donation. It's not. They want something in return. What can you give them? Good will. Be absolutely sure to take LOTS of pictures of cute little kids with the computers you buy/build. Do what you can to get these pictures printed in the local/national papers. Again, develop relationships with people in the newspapers and your pics/press releases will get published more often than not. Make up certificates and send to donors, invite them to "dedication" ceremonies (9 times out of 10 they won't come but will be happy to have been invited). Repeat customers are much cheaper and easier to acquire than new customers - once someone has given you money, wait a few months and hit them up again.

    Don't forget that you're going to leave in 2 or so years. Training is FAR more important than the actual equipment. Build capacity. Teach people how to build/repair their own macines, teach them how to use the machines. If you don't build capacity you're wasting your two years there. I wasn't trying to but did so out of dumb luck - I taught a few coworkers how to use the machines and a few students how to build/repair them. Unknowingly at the time I launched a few IT careers...

    Finally, here's a link to a manual [ericzander.com] I produced way back when but is still being used by Peace Corps Thailand. It is old and somewhat country specific but there's a lot more of my "lessons learned" in there than I write here.

    Good luck!

    ~ZanderMander
    • Be absolutely sure to take LOTS of pictures of cute little kids with the computers you buy/build.

      In this dude's blog (and I didn't see anything in the first few entries that ruled out being a setup for a scam), he says there is one paved road in the country. He says he gets on the internet with one low baud dialup shared by an internet cafe. Says it took 30 minutes to read his first email.

      What would they do with a computer?

      rd
      • What would they do with a computer?

        You ask a very good and legitimate question. One which I was asked a lot and some very bright minds in the development field used to ask also. Answer is that they would do the very same things with a computer you and I do. They use it for typing, data manipulation (spreadsheets, analysis, bookkeeping, ...), playing games (yes, even people in developing countries like to play games. In fact, it is the game playing that often keeps community computer centers in business)

        • checking the weather

          You didn't understand, there is no internet access for these alleged gift PC's. In addition, how did "plan and execute projects" become "build/buy PC's for kids".

          Also in addition, anyone who thinks you can build a PC cheaper in Africa than the $300 PC's that come out of China is rather oblivious.

          Remember, this alleged Peace Corp guy said I don't want hardware or software, I want money.

          Really clueless
          • (This'll be my last comment on this as I've had this discussion oh-so-many times with people like you and I get tired of it)

            OK, so they don't have internet access today and they can't check the weather. Who's to say the PCV's next project won't be to set up a wireless network? Who's to say they won't soon be getting telephone and dial up in his area? There are a lot of amazing things going on in this area. Here's one of my favorite: Jhai [jhai.org]. Granted, you did point out one thing they can not do today with co
            • .
              First of all, I did look at his blog, and like I said, I didn't see anything in the first several posts that ruled this out from being another African scam.

              Secondly, building PC's from parts cheaper was a few years ago. You can't beat the price of all in one motherboard PC's now. You can't even come close. I mean, remember, you guys are also saying "it's not worth the bother to work with old PC's". It'd be different if you wanted donmated hardware to do your thin
              • Sorry, but support/maintenance/training costs and time are simply horrendous for mixed used equipment. If you want a project like this to succeed you need to use either locally available products (Hard for Togo) or build your own buying multiples of the same equipment (which is cheaper, perhaps not initially, than buying crap 300 dollar value PCs that will simply die or be unstable).

                Real IT Departments don't buy cheap PCs, they buy many of a few different models of computers depending on what the company n
                • If you want a project like this to succeed you need to use either locally available products (Hard for Togo) or build your own buying multiples of the same equipment (which is cheaper, perhaps not initially, than buying crap 300 dollar value PCs that will simply die or be unstable).

                  So when I started out, it wasn't good enough for me to have a TRS-80 with a tape drive (on which I taught myself BASIC and Z-80 programming), but instead had to have an "in country supplier" hand build me an
  • Somewhat off topic, but I'd be interested in hearing about the types of projects. I've been very tempted by the Peace Corps in the past but have been reluctant since I didn't feel my skills would lend themselves to agricultural type projects. What kind of opportunities are there in organisations like this for someone with Economics and CS degrees and quite a bit of corporate IT experience?
    • by Spince (1003216)
      The common misconception about Peace Corps is that it's all agriculture or bridge building and stuff. However, the reality is now that more and more developing countries want people skilled in other areas, this is especially true in places like Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in many of the former soviet states. I'm currently a Peace Corps volunteer in Kazakhstan, and I teach english at a local university. I'm also in the midst of trying to get funding to develop a business center for my university since
    • by grcumb (781340)

      What kind of opportunities are there in organisations like this for someone with Economics and CS degrees and quite a bit of corporate IT experience?

      GeekCorps [geekcorps.org], VSO [vsocanada.org] and CUSO [cuso.org] (if you're Canadian) all have pretty good opportunities for IT volunteers. (VSO Canada accepts applications from permament residents of the US and Canada.)

  • I'll donate Microsoft. What are planning to use them for? Cannon fodder in one of your interminable little wars seems like a good idea. If you'd like, we can send you Oracle, as well, but you'll have to keep Larry and Bill in separate cages.
  • money to plan and execute projects with in country suppliers (it's amazing how much can be done with a couple thousand dollars on the local market).
    How can computers be cheaper there, when they're all made in China anyway?
    • You are very right. New computers are the same price here as they are in the US or Europe (usually even a little more expensive.) What there is a great market for used computers. I can get a P3 with keyboard, monitor, and mouse for about $200. While not the highest quality they will last at least 2 years, enough time for them to recoup their initial cost and pay for replacements. I have found that unless you have tons of money to pay for a sterile lab (ie. Air-Con, sealed windows, etc) this environmen
  • the $100.00 laptop project might be of some interest to you. It sounds like you may be just the sort of project they are working with these days. http://wiki.laptop.org/ [laptop.org] http://www.laptop.org/ [laptop.org] I beleive there is a prodgram here as well... but i think it is mostly old/recycled hardware. http://www.marketvelocity.com/ [marketvelocity.com]
  • Great post! I am also a Peace Corps Volunteer. I'm serving in The Gambia in West Africa, and I have been facing much of the same issues. Here's some quick responses to a few of previous posters' questions:

    * Why money and not (just) hardware? Local monies support local IT businesses and help fuel self-sustaining solutions. Donations of hardware without monies to support them (one of the single biggest problems I've seen with donations) are the most common donations, but unfortunately generally lead to h
    • Thanks for your comments. It's nice to know that there are other people out there struggling through the same issues as I am. It's amazing how many comments have already come in from other PCVs and volunteers doing the same sort of work. I wish there was a central place where we could all share stories/experiences/advice in this area of work.

      Keep up the good work! I love your idea of a CS Masters. I'm going to check out your site and read a little more.
  • Go back to the rich world, get a job and donate all the money you save by living in the Toga-like conditions to the cause.

    Thus funded, the skilled locals (frequenters of that "local market" you mention) will be able to do the job themselves. They would happily switch places and take your place in the rich world, but various protectionist and anti-immigration laws keep them in Africa (mostly)...

    But if you insist on wasting your time and effort over there, try asking the Gates Foundation... Ha-ha.

  • IT related projects in the developing world
    While I recognize the importance of technology all over the world, couldn't a developing country benefit more from money directed at food and overall health projects rather than something IT related?
    • There are many opinions on what makes for good, sustainable "development" in impoverished countries. Personally, I believe that donating food, medicine, and clean water supplies is helpful to alleviate immediate needs, but does not solve the greater goal of equipping the recipients to get out of the extreme poverty cycle and become self-sustaining. Rather, like the teach-a-man-to-fish proverb, I believe that donations of exclusively food mostly just extend the problem until the next food shortage when eve

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