Patrice Riemens on Fri, 8 Feb 2002 10:17:01 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] 380 donated computers on their way to schools in Goa (India) (fwd)

For once, an encouraging story from the sub-continent...

----- Forwarded message from Frederick Noronha <> -----

Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2002 18:06:41 +0530
From: Frederick Noronha <>
Subject: FEATURE: Computers by the containerful...

Photo: Curious youngsters take a peek at the unusual cargo. (Photo FN)

By Frederick Noronha

PANAJI (Goa), Feb 4: On the hillock between the bustling Panaji subsurb of 
Porvorim and the sleepy village of Sangolda, a flurry of activity ended 
after sunset. Some 380 computers landed there, as  the neighbourhood looked 
on with an element of surprise.

Kids played around with the bubble-packs that wrapped the computers, 
in  their long journey from New York to Goa. But, if things work out -- and 
it's not going to be easy -- computers like these could make a difference 
to the children's tomorrow.

Continuing their unusual venture, the Goa Schools Computers Project 
(GSCP),  brought in a second containerful of once-used donated PCs. in 
partnership  with the Goa Education Department. These are to be distributed 
to over a hundred schools in the state.

"(The container with the) PCs landed on January 22 and were cleared 
on  last Wednesday. We had no problems. The Customs and the Goa Education 
Department were most supportive," says Daryl Martyris, who is in his late 
twenties and was till recently a consultant with PriceWaterHouseCoopers.

Martyris is one of the expat Goans that got worked-up about the 
possibility  of expanding access to computer education in Goa. Young 
Margao-educated expat Romulus Pereira, from Navelim village, who made his 
million in Silicon Valley, was one of the many others who threw his weight 
behind this project.

Now, the Goa Schools Computers Projects (GSCP) is drawing attention 
from  within India and beyond... as an example of how concerned expats can 
team up with locals to help widen computer education back home.

Pereira is the biggest single donor for this project. "He's convinced 
about  the benefits of IT in the kids' future," says Martyris, who grew up 
in Mumbai before doing his engineering and shifting to the US.

In end-1999, a trial shipment of 97 computers were sent across in a 
20-foot  container. This month, the number was hiked to 380. Computers are 
once-used American donated equipment. But because of the high-rate of 
obsolescence in the West, only Pentium-I and above computers have been 
shipped in.

After getting Customs clearances -- it was more difficult in the past, 
when  the container landed in Mumbai instead of Mormugao -- the computers 
are to be checked and handed over to both government and government-aided 
schools who have shown a willingness to maintain them.

This idea which started on the Internet-based Goa networks some years 
ago  is, incidentally, catching on in other states too. A website called has been set up to show others how low-cost computers 
could be legally imported for use in schools.

Expats networked with an organisation called the World Computer 
Exchange,  which accepts computer donations, and refurbishes them to 'sell' 
them at a very concessional price of US$40 each. With the PI's come colour 
monitors, some of which are a whopping 19 to 21 inches in size.

"We had to make 13 tempo trips, just shifting the computers from 
the  container (which couldn't go up the narrow, wire-overhanging road) to 
the store-house," said Ashley Delaney, who has been involved with the 
getting the PCs working and moving in the past shipment too.

"We're getting a lot of e-mails from NGOs in India, asking how to import 
such equipment for schools. One shipment facilitated by SEWA, the women's 
group, is imminent in Gujarat. We believe the Andhra Pradesh government is 
actively considering this option," says Martyris.

Due to a lack of hardware, this talent-rich, resource-poor country finds it 
difficult to get access its students need to study. This unusual means -- 
getting in computers by the containerful -- is being seen as one way out.

After spending $3500 on the container shipping, the cost of each PC is 
about $60, which is way below what it would cost a school to get purchase 
one from the market. Since the expats are funding this project through 
donations and raffles, the schools pay nothing -- other than a commitment 
to set up facilities and use the hardware to the optimum.

"We will wait till the schools can assimilate a larger number of PCs. We 
will work in tandem with the government's own plans to spread the computer 
culture in schools, by adding more computers where needed," says GSCP local 
coordinator Anit Saxena. GSCP is supported by the Goa Sudharop 
(, a US-registered charity made up of expat volunteers.

But some have looked at the gift horse in the mouth, and have not been 
welcoming of such gifted PCs. "There's the realisation that good-quality, 
used PCs are better than no PCs, which would affect the future of our youth.

People who realise this, are supportive of the efforts," said Martyris, the 
exhaustion shown after a pre-dawn to dusk day of offloading computers and 
their huge monitors from the container. GSCP members however said they were 
thrilled with the way the Education Department is "treating us like a 
partner". Plans by the government to give every school in Goa at least one 
computer are being materialised this year itself.

The next step is to give schools access to more computers, and to use those 
installed more productively -- so that possibly even nearby villagers can 
benefit from the same, suggest the proponents of this project.

"By the end of this shipment, we'll have covered some 120 schools (some 
with  only single computers though). Most will have raised funds for their 
infrastructure," said Marytris. Saxena argues that for such a project to 
succeed, what is badly needed is a 'catalytic agent' within the school 
itself -- either in the form of the principal, a teacher or the management.

GSCP's future plans are to push for computer-integrated training -- 
meaning, the computer could be taught not just as one more esoteric 
subject, but used as a tool for students to learn other subjects in their 
curriculum, and more about their world too. (ENDS) 

----- End forwarded message -----

Nettime-bold mailing list