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IT Charity Holding ‘Twitterthon’ To Bridge Digital Divide

Computer Aid is calling on all Twitter fans to donate PCs to developing world

Although critics might call it inane or a waste of time, having the ability to Tweet at will is a right that most people in the UK can choose to engage in thanks to near ubiquitous broadband and computer access.

But many children in the developing world don’t have access to the most basic computing resources, an issue that IT charity Computer Aid International is trying to remedy by calling on Twitter fans to take part in the what it is calling the first ever charity Twitterthon.

The virtual event, which will kick-off on Tuesday 16 June at 11am GMT, will be similar to a television telethon but rather than pledging cash – although Twitter users are free to do that – the organisation is looking for companies and individuals to pledge to donate their PCs, as well as generally publicise Computer Aid’s work.

The charity takes PCs donated from UK companies, refurbishes them including erasing the hard-drives using government certified tools, and then sends them to schools and other deserving causes in developing countries in Africa and Asia.

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According to the charity’s chief executive Tony Roberts, the aim of the Twitterthon is to generate around 1000 pledges of PCs in four hours. “These don’t have to be PCs that people are ready to donate right now but rather machines they know they are going to upgrade in the future and promise to send us when they do,” he said.

The charity is also hoping to increase the number of fans of its Twitter page Computer_Aid from around 808 at the moment to 2000 by the end of the event. There is no set length for the Twitterthon, although the main push will be from 11 to 3pm, and Roberts said it will continue for as long as people continue to Tweet.

The global downturn has affected a lot of charities and Computer Aid is no different according to Roberts. He said that donations of PCs to the charity are down by around 25 percent form what would usually be expected as companies shy away from refreshing hardware in an effort to cut IT costs.

However Roberts said that rather than hoping the the charity will benefit from the eventual upturn and a PC refreshes that result, he believes that there are plenty of machines sitting in company store-rooms and individuals’ attics which could be donated to the charity for refurbishment and eventually sent to the developing world.

“We estimate there are thousands of PCs currently collecting dust today in back-rooms and store cupboards across the country and we are urging people to take action and get involved in the Computer Aid Twitterthon to help raise awareness of this need and meet the demand,” he said.

Computer Aid says it has refurbished more than 130,000 PCs and laptops, all of which are being used to support e-learning, e-health, e-inclusion and e-agriculture projects in countries such as Kenya, Madagascar and Zambia.

“Reusing old PCs is much better for the environment than recycling them down to their component parts and it also provides an invaluable opportunity for disadvantaged schoolchildren who would otherwise have no access to ICT in education,” says Roberts. “We can put a PC on a school desk in Africa within six weeks of receiving the donation and we estimate that one donated PC will deliver at least a further three years’ use.”