Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Please, No More IT Charity

There seems to be this unshakeable belief in Western culture that Africa and ilk are simply dying to get a hold of our used electronic gear. With a few exceptions, nothing could be further from the truth; everyone who wants a cell phone in Africa has one, and China is completely sated with this junk. Most donated computers also require software and technical expertise, which recipient countries simply do not have in any great supply. There are still some companies shipping refurb over the waters, most notably Computer Aid International, but I have to say that their time is probably about up, particularly when countries like India are now begging for the charity to stop. Even CNN admits that wealthy nations are Shovelling IT into great big heaps in foreign places.Let's end the snobbery; if your gear isn't good enough for you, it's not good enough for an African, an Indian, or anyone else either. If you are in IT, start accounting for the environmental cost of the equipment that you buy, and start using equipment to failure instead of palming boxes off on local charities or your employees. And if it's your personal gear, think long and hard about the rationale for buying another electronic thingy. Like your cats or your kids, assume it's going to be yours forever.

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