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TecsChange: Technology for Social Change
Charlie Welch, Sandra Harris, Aram Falsafi, et al.
7 pm, Wednesday, February 19, 2003 in MIT Room 2-105

[TecsChange volunteers in action]

TecsChange was founded in 1992 when people interested in computers and social change united to discuss the use of technology in developing countries. Connecting computer skills with a desire to support progressive grassroots organizing, TecsChange now carries out a variety of projects:

  • Teaching People how to Repair & Refurbish Computers

    In April 1997, TecsChange and the Community Computing Center at Tent City in Boston started a program of instruction in the testing and repair of donated computers. TecsChange volunteers teach the students to do minor repairs (e.g., replacing a hard disk or installing a modem); at the end of the program, every student that qualifies earns a computer. The program helps young people by giving them valuable skills; it introduces them to questions surrounding technology and social change; and as it brings them together with community-minded activists, it also provides positive role models for development. At the same time the larger community also benefits, as activists themselves begin to learn and think about the role of technology in what they do.

  • Donating Refurbished Equipment to Organizations Around the World

    Computers are "rescued" from local companies, institutions, and individuals; refurbished and tested; and then donated to overseas organizations. To date, this has been TecsChange's most successful project. Weekly repair sessions have been held since 1992 and hundreds of computers have been shipped to labor and women's groups, cooperatives, and other organizations working to promote health, education, human rights, and responsible use of natural resources in a dozen or so countries, including Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and South Africa. And instead of simply giving equipment and walking away, TecsChange stays in contact with receiving organizations and provides continued support. Sometimes, the donation of a computer even leads to a long-term relationship involving a joint project.

  • Working with a University in Rural Nicaragua

    Founded in 1995, URACCAN — the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua — was the first university in an economically and culturally marginalized region of this Central American country. The university provides the local population with the necessary skills to manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. TecsChange volunteers provide URACCAN with training and with the installation of critical infrastructure, including a community radio station; plus, over the years, by participating in the Pastors for Peace caravans to Central America, TecsChange has also supplied the university with a number of computers.

  • Working with an Eritrean NGO

    In the summer of 1999, TecsChange began to work with the Boston branch of the National Union of Eritrean Youth Students. Once a week, members of NUEYS come to TecsChange and participate in a hands-on course in computer repair. They learn valuable skills, which they take back to their homeland; and all computers refurbished in this program are sent to NUEYS headquarters in Eritrea, to be distributed to schools, community centers, and other organizations that serve the nation's youth.