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Computer Refurbishing at the WiderNet Project

Right next to The WiderNet Project's main office, a large room is piled high with computer equipment. A semi-organized mountain of hardware and cardboard boxes balances precariously, threatening to overcome staff workstations and desks.

Because of this mountain, thousands of people will one day be given access to educational resources.

The WiderNet project has shipped over 1,200 computers, over $1.1 million in value, to partners in Africa using donations from over 700 people in the Iowa City area.

"We send good working equipment that still has years of life left in it, says Cliff Missen, the program director. "Currently we're only accepting Pentium4 or better computers. We weed out the stuff that won't work in Africa and send along plenty of spare parts so they can keep the machines running a long time."

Computer refurbishing, erasing, testing, and upgrading used computers, is the process that readies these computers for installation abroad. WiderNet Project technicians, like Matt Neely, assist volunteers in refurbishing.

“The initial step in the refurbishing process is to test a computer to make sure it works,” Neely explains. “If the machine doesn’t turn on, we open it up to see if all the parts are there.” Volunteers and technicians make sure the hardware operates correctly by checking for required components and have a large collection of replacement parts to fix and upgrade the machines.

Once the WiderNet Project has received and refurbished a significant number of hardware donations, volunteers will then package the equipment and ship it to people and institutions that need it the most.

There's a old saying, "Give a man fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime." The WiderNet Project takes the computer donation program one step further: instead of simply sending computers abroad, staff from the WiderNet Project educate patrons on how to install and maintain the computers. Patrons will also be provided on-going technical support.

One donor, Ken Atkinson, explains the significance of educating people in developing countries on the use of digital technology. "There is really no alternative to digital communication access" he says. "If you want to have development in the world today, you have to have communication. You have to have knowledge."

For information on how to donate computer equipment to The WiderNet Project, go to: http://widernet.org/getinvolved/computers/faq.

You can also email donations@widernet.org or call (319) 335-2200 to schedule a drop-off time.

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