IS Partner provides laptops to African students

April 24, 2001, 01:00 CEST

Hydro business unit IS Partner is making a difference towards improving global sustainability by donating second-hand laptop computers to Danish non-profit group Digital School Experience's effort to supply free second-hand data gear to schools in developing countries.

IS Partner plans to give about 100 used laptop computers to Digital this year, says IS Partner senior system consultant Jan Christer Bech. Hydro investment recovery subsidiary Inverse is facilitating the delivery.

"We're seeking partners in development to help us reach our goal of supplying 25,000 students (in mostly African countries) with access to computers," said Jan Bjørke, Digital School Experience director, at a joint meeting at Hydro's headquarters in Oslo last week. They have so far hooked up about 800 students thanks to gifts from companies such as Hydro, Volvo, Swedish dairy company Arla, Ericsson Business Consulting in Sweden and Centre Parcs Business Consulting in the UK.

Digital is affiliated with non-profit development aid organization Humana People to People, which funds and supports several small schools in southern Africa (Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe). The African schools are linked with the Danish Tvind Schools, which have facilities in Denmark, Norway, the UK and the US.

The two groups of schools - "one in affluent countries and the other in poor countries" - are inter-linked as a token of friendship, solidarity, humanism and global education, Bjørke explains.

Most of the African schools have "virtually no equipment," says Bjørke's colleague Jesper Pedersen, who helps manage the Norwegian branch of Humana's giant international used-clothing enterprise that raises funds for the organization's ventures. "People with less than USD 1 per day income have no opportunity to buy a computer."

"Computers are urgently needed in Africa and play a significant role in the fight against HIV in rural areas," says Kenneth Kachimanga, a native of Malawi, now teaching in a Folk High School in Denmark. "Information can be the difference between life and death. With computers, students and teachers get statistical data which serves as a reference in school projects and which can be used to begin working effectively against the spread of the virus."

"We're continually working to make the schools more effective for each individual student from both a cost and learning perspective. In Africa, especially, the cost of a PC is overwhelming. At the same time, the need for education and development is enormous," comments Pedersen.

"We're looking for companies and persons willing to help however they can. The schools are up and running. The students are ready. So are we," says Bjørke. "Hydro is so far the only company to give laptops," he adds. The approximately 35 machines already donated by IS Partner have been distributed to traveling teachers. "Having a laptop means so much to them."

Digital seeks computers with the following minimum requirements: Pentium 100 Mhz, 1 gigabyte hard disk and 32 mb ram. It also needs 14-inch screens, printers scanners, etc.

In exchange for a company or individual's gift, Digital Experience will send digital pictures and reports from the education in progress. "As documentation, and in gratitude," Bjørke says.

Digital School Experience can be reached at jan@e-advice.dk