There’s no getting away from it. In the West, we live in a throwaway culture. Take a piece of equipment to a computer repair shop and you may be told that is is cheaper to get a new one.

Every day mountains of computing equipment, printers, telephones etc. are discarded. Many of these are in perfect working order, but just don’t conform to the latest requirements of modern business, or family.

Roy Charles who runs a London IT company told us that the businesses he works with upgrade their equipment, on average, every 18 – 24 months. Much of that finds a home, but much is taken away and is destined for landfill or breaking down for reclamation of valuable components.

Fortunately there is an alternative for unloved computer equipment.

Computer Aid is a charity with offices in London and South Africa which helps get working ICT gear in the hands of groups and individuals who otherwise would be cut-off from the online world. From schools in poverty stricken areas, to refugee camps, they are enabling people to be connected and make progress, where their immediate circumstances are extremely challenging.

Since 1998 they have brought access to digital technology to over 1million children and adults. As they say on their website,

“Today, Computer Aid is one of the leading ICT for development – ICT4D – organization, providing low cost solutions using ICT to tackle poverty and to overcome disadvantage, working closely with local communities. Integral to our approach is providing the training so desperately needed; not just computer competency but ensuring that ICT is integrated into curriculums that seek to enhance life chances and provide equal opportunity to those otherwise disadvantaged.

“The challenge is large but our ambitions is huge: the past 17 years we have witnessed how ICT4D can lift inequality by providing practical and empowering solutions to communities and we need your help to reduce further the digital divide and give a chance to more people to improve their lives.”

If you work in a company who regularly renews their ICT equipment, it is worth investigating this innovative charity. They also accept donations from individuals. If you do not have any equipment then you can still support their work by being a regular sponsor, contributing financially to help them reach their goals.

As equipment changes and the demands of staying connected require increasing power and storage capacity, it is inevitable that gear has to be renewed. Our preference is that it should be done with the minimum use of resources.

Where possible, look to upgrade, rather than replace, existing equipment. That having beeen said, the work that is being some by groups like these does at least make a positive contribution, and mitigates the negatives of disposing of equipment that is still in fine working condition.