Our work in developing countries is to identify those potential recipient organisations where the application of IT will have the most positive social and economic impact.

The digital divide that currently exists between the developed and developing countries is enormous. Latest World Bank research shows that there are 5 or less computers per 1,000 people in the vast majority of Sub-Saharan African countries. This figure is also applicable to the South Asian sub-continent.

Liberia’s 14 years of civil war cost the country over 250,000 lives and displaced a further 800,000, devastating the social and cultural fabric of its society. From a pre-conflict middle-income country, Liberia has become a post-conflict state where 75% of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Much of Liberia’s large youth population were deeply affected by the civil war, with many uprooted, internally displaced or becoming refugees.

In order to improve access to vocational training by young people in Liberia, Computer Aid has provided PCs for an IT technician’s training course at Stella Maris Polytechnic University. The course trains students to become fully skilled IT technicians with knowledge of computer installation, preventative maintenance, networking, security and troubleshooting. The course is recognised by Microsoft, HP and Cisco and is the industry standard for computer technician’s training. Increasing the skills base of young people in Liberia will support job creation, economic growth and also encourage inward investment.

The civil war also exacerbated inequalities in Liberia and gender inequality remains a major obstacle to poverty reduction. 90% of employed Liberian women work in the agricultural or informal sectors which often means meagre earnings and greater exposure to exploitation. Continuing our work with Stella Maris Polytechnic and other partners, Computer Aid International is looking to establish a vocational ICT technician’s training course especially for women. This will challenge the gender boundaries of a male dominated industry whilst it’s still in its infancy within Liberia.

Inspirational stories of young women learning new skills and confidence in a field normally associated with men will, Computer Aid hopes, encourage others to follow paths of vocational training in fields that they otherwise might have considered impossible or inappropriate.

Computer Aid has helped to provide ICT equipment to over 5,000 schools in Chile

Chile is one of South America’s most prosperous nations, characterised by a dynamic market-oriented economy. Despite this, approximately 40% of the country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of 10% of the population. As a result, there exists a great deal of urban and rural poverty. Estimates suggest that 15% of the population is currently living below the national poverty line and this is expected to rise to 20% in the wake of the February 2010 earthquake. This leaves a significant gap in educational opportunities for vulnerable segments of the population.

By partnering with the Chilenter Foundation, Computer Aid International is able to reach some of the most disadvantaged communities in Chile. This is no mean accomplishment in a country typified by dramatic geographical diversity. Our established partnership means that Computer Aid’s professionally refurbished PCs will have the greatest impact. In addition to the provision of ICT hardware, Chilenter provides technical support and training to ensure that Computer Aid’s computers reach their maximum lifespan.

To date, Computer Aid has shipped over 20,000 PCs to Chilenter. This equipment has been distributed to over 5,000 schools and 600 community organizations across Chile, including the remote frozen region of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) in the extreme south of the country. In this region, disadvantaged groups such as the Yaghan Indians are able to learn IT skills, which increases employment opportunities in these communities. The combined efforts of Computer Aid and Chilenter will continue to ensure that ICT equipment reaches and serves those communities most in need.

Computer lessons have proved popular at Abbas Rest Orphans

Often it is the most vulnerable and marginalised groups who lack access to ICT. According to UNICEF estimates from 2007, there are 1.1 million orphans in Malawi under the age of 18. Vocational training in ICT can provide vital life skills to help children escape poverty and find employment. In the last year, Computer Aid has provided over 200 computers to orphanages in Malawi, including Abbas Rest Orphans. These computers will provide up to 12,000 children with the opportunity to gain skills in ICT.

Abbas Rest Orphans serves over 300 children in two centres and ten substations located throughout the south of the county. The orphanages provide children with food, clothes, medical aid and education. This includes vocational skills training, which might otherwise be unavailable to these children.

The computers have been enthusiastically received by the children. Computer courses are taught two days a week during school term time and four days a week during the holidays. The computers are also used outside of school hours to do homework. In addition, the computers at Abbas Rest Orphans have helped to give skills to girls who otherwise would have limited training opportunities, allowing them to gain the skills with which to seek employment and thus gain increased independence.

Working with Computer Aid, COPPADES has focused on IT access for remote schools and libraries by providing computer suites

It is often the division between urban and rural communities where differences in wealth and access to ICT are most pronounced. In Nepal 88% of the population live outside the country’s towns and cities. Access to ICT is limited because of the difficult terrain which characterises the country and the lack of reliable power supplies - it is estimated that only 30% of Nepal’s population has access to the electric grid.

Computer Aid has been working with Nepal’s Committee for the Promotion of Public Awareness and Development Studies (COPPADES), a community development organisation which believes that ICT has a crucial role to play in narrowing the wealth divide that exists in Nepal.

COPPADES has focused on providing IT access to remote schools and libraries and to date they have built 400 computer suites. Each computer lab is equipped with a minimum of 5 computers, a printer, and networking equipment to allow access to the web. All the technology is powered using solar energy systems enabling the schools to operate off grid.

As well as providing IT training to teachers at the schools, COPPADES has invested in providing technical training to local people. This creates jobs and ensures the local community owns the skills needed to maintain the computer suites and provide an ongoing resource centre for the community.

Unoperated cleft lips and palates represent a major problem in many developing countries and cause suffering for millions of children. Often they face difficult lives, left in isolation and subject to stigma. Many cannot speak or eat properly and aren’t allowed to attend school or even hold a job. Operations to improve their lives only take 45 minutes, yet the resources and expertise required are often not available, particularly in rural areas.

Through its partner, AMREF (The African Medical and Research Foundation), Computer Aid has provided ICT to improve healthcare provision in East Africa and have facilitated a cleft lip and palate surgery programme. ICT can play a crucial role in overcoming the communication problems which hinder operations and opportunities for knowledge sharing that particularly affect rural doctors and surgeons in developing countries.

Providing equipment and expertise to rural hospitals, AMREF have trained doctors to use computers and digital cameras so that they can upload photographs of patients for remote consultations with surgeons. This is also essential for sending before and after photographs of patients to receive funding from Smile Train, the US-based charity who cover the cost of cleft palate operations in many developing countries.

The provision of ICT allows up-to-date skills training to be delivered to isolated doctors and surgeons over the internet. Furthermore, ICT training helps to overcome the surgeons lack of experience in using computers and allows more of these life changing operations to go ahead.

AMREF, working exclusively in rural areas, have so far carried out over 3,000 cleft palate operations using computers provided by Computer Aid.