Generosity 2.0

By Prakash Ballakoor Published Date
01 - Aug - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Aug - 2007
Generosity 2.0

Donating old computers not only reduces e-waste, it can also improve someone's life

Advancements in hardware compel one to upgrade one's system every three years or so. When upgrading, what do most people do with their old PCs? Sell it for peanuts. Newer systems can be cheaper by 30 to 50 per cent than systems bought just a couple of years earlier, and can be twice as fast, thus forcing one to sell the old system at less than a fourth of the original price. For example, around two and half years ago, a Pentium IV 2.4 GHz with 512 MB of RAM cost Rs 28,000 to 32,000; now, you can get a Pentium Core Duo or Pentium D 2.8 GHz system for Rs 13,000 to 15,000.

Unhappy with what's being offered for the old system, some find it fit to dump it in the attic, happy in the knowledge that one still owns the system! Others just throw it away.

There's another option we rarely consider: donating computers to people who really need it. We're talking about unprivileged children and youths who would like to work at a computer and get to know what computers are all about, but for lack of money and knowledge, cannot do so. Apart from computer education, there happen to be other areas where organisations would appreciate the donation of a computer. You-like anyone else who has a computer-can help when the time comes to upgrade.

Education First
Cash-strapped NGOs are trying hard to procure systems. As Amita Chaurasia, who works as documentation in-charge at Pratham-a Mumbai-based NGO-says, "Computers excite children's fantasies, and have become a vital tool to attract underprivileged children to education." Echoing this, Imran Pathan (9), a student at Pratham, says, "My computer is really beautiful. I like it a lot. It has lots of games. I am a champion at Gaddivali." Imran is talking about games, but that's only the beginning. Having realised the potential of computers in education, several NGOs such as Pratham (, United Way of Mumbai (, ChildLine India (, Aarambh, and Hamara Foundation have introduced computers into their educational programs.

Pratham, initiated by UNICEF in 1994, is a community-based grassroots organisation that promotes the education of underprivileged children in India. This NGO, headquartered in Mumbai covers 21 states, with over a million children under its care. Pratham's programmes include "Computer Assisted Learning" in municipal primary schools, government assisted schools, and community centres in slums. Serving over 25,000 children under this programme, the computer provides a perfect tool to Play And Learn. Pratham has a software team that creates maths and language games in local languages. Nabbi Shaikh, 11, says, "My teacher teaches me new things on the computer. The computer has maths games which I learn and teach others. I want to be a computer teacher when I grow up."

IBM has donated four specially-designed computers at the drop-in centre at Baiganwadi in Mumbai in support of the programme. The Baiganwadi area is close to the biggest "dumping ground" in Mumbai, where thousands of tons of garbage are generated. This is the home of many children. Pratham found it a big challenge to convince the children to bathe, rest, engage in recreation, and learn. They also found it tough to sustain the children's interest in reading and learning activities. With the advent of computers and interactive learning programs, Pratham was amazed how the children were eager to operate the machines. When the computers were installed, the children became adept at using the systems, especially the maths and language games.

Pratham says they have to date had more than 2,500 children availing this facility. Chaurasia says, "The need for computers exists in all our facilities, and there is huge shortage of good working computers." The NGO has 13 computer centres with 10 PCs each in Mumbai municipal schools, and three computer centres in Delhi municipal schools with six PCs each.

If you want to donate your old computer to Pratham, you can drop it at your local Pratham office, whose address can be found at You can also call the local Pratham office, and they will pick up the system from your home.

Remember that computers in need of repair are
more burden than gift

Helping To Help

United Way of Mumbai is an NGO that accepts community investments from corporates, and from corporate employees on a monthly basis. They focus on providing financial and other assistance to other NGOs who work in the field of child welfare, women empowerment, community development, and disaster relief. Under child welfare, United Way of Mumbai has a program called "Computer Pool," where one can donate old computers. This project was conceived to equip NGOs with computers in order to stay efficient and competitive: NGOs the world over are unable to get basic office equipment due to lack of funds- United Way of Mumbai is trying to address this.

Children getting their computing dose at Pratham

Navi Mumbai's Aarambh helps school drop-outs

Charu Jain, program manager, says, "The response to this program has been good, but during the initial stages, we were getting a lot of computers that didn't work and needed repair, which was expensive." They now accept PCs only after reviewing its configuration: visit .asp to fill up the form. Donated computers are distributed to NGOs that have sent in requests for computers. United Way has donated computers to NGOs like Hamara, Aarambh and ChildLine India.

Helping Amidst Chaos
The ChildLine India Foundation, set up in 1996, is the country's first toll-free tele-helpline for street children in distress. It operates in 75 cities, and has responded to over 12 million calls from all over India. ChildLine uses computers to run software called ChildNET, which was developed by Tata Consultancy Services, to record and report distress calls. Since ChildLine only has one toll-free number, 1098, it receives thousand of calls a day; it is difficult to store and retrieve the data without a proper mechanism in place. Computers play a vital role in the process of analysis, storage, retrieval, and reporting. Nishit Kumar, incharge of Awareness and Advocacy, says, "The call analysis that we generate contains city-wise reports of a number of cases of child abuse, missing children, child labour, sexual abuse, needed medical attention, and victims of natural calamities." This is then discussed with the local advisory board comprising decision-making authorities-like the city commissioner, the concerned ministers, state ministers, the judiciary, the police, NGOs, and the media of the city in question. Plans to address these problems are chalked out and corrective actions are implemented. One can get in touch with ChildLine India Foundation at or

Education Towards Employment
There are NGOs that cater to one locality or city; Aarambh, for example, helps with the educational and psychological needs of children who drop out of education in Navi Mumbai. Aarambh provides vocational training like screen printing, filing papers, making paper bags, and computer courses.

Aarambh conducts a basic three-month course for youth who have matriculated, and help them get further training with small offices and professionals. To date, they have trained over a hundred individuals. Shobha Murthy, founder and trustee of Aarambh, says, "Many offices employ young boys and girls as assistants for odd jobs like cleaning, and assure them their jobs would be upgraded in terms of salary and post once they have acquired basic computer knowledge. While some recently-matriculated trainees have opted for further studies, there are many who have taken up jobs. We think the future looks bright for these children." Aarambh has four computer training centres in the midst of the slums of Navi Mumbai, and all the 15 computers are old ones in working condition, donated by corporates and banks.

A computer can be donated to Aarambh by calling them at 022-27680965; they will pick it up from your doorstep. Better still, you could drop it off at one of their computer centres, which can be located at; this way, you can see your computer being set up in the centre and even used by the students.

Other NGOs that accept old computers include Samarthanam and Pratham in Mysore and Bangalore, Deepalaya in Delhi, and Azad India in Bihar. We'd like to encourage you to find one such NGO in your town or city.

A Concluding Note
One needs to remember, though, that old computers to be donated need to run a workable OS like Windows 98 or Windows XP. Computers that need repair also should not be donated; they are more of a burden than a gift. It would be a very good idea to get the system repaired by yourself first. Prof Asha of Hamara Foundation also tells us, "We don't want computer parts; it is expensive to get the rest of the parts and build a complete system." Go that extra mile and give something of value!

Wanting to help a social cause is a noble sentiment. We hope we've convinced you that donating your old computer is quite the best use you can put it to. You might not literally see how it is being used, but you can be sure it's changing the life of someone, somewhere. 

Prakash BallakoorPrakash Ballakoor