A group of IIT Madras students is collecting old computers for the benefit of the poor, besides teaching them how to use a PC.

Access to computers and the Internet is a sine qua non of modern day life. In a bid to make computers accessible to the needy and less privileged, Shaastra, the annual technical festival of IIT Madras, has come forward with the initiative – Computer Literacy for All.

The initiative is the brainchild of Akhil Sai Valluri, a student of the Institute. Realising that the perfectly working personal computer he had bought some time ago for Rs. 80,000 cannot be resold for more than a meagre Rs. 2,000, Akhil, with the help of Anusheel Pareek, Amit Kumar and Shahid, among other students of the Institute, decided to collect old computers and donate it to people who could put it into good use.

Out with the old

“We went about the campus collecting old and used computers and asked the residents to donate them in whatever conditions they were in,” says Akhil. “Some were in good condition and we built new systems with whatever working parts we could salvage from the rest of the junk.”

After overcoming initial bureaucratic hurdles, the idea found takers and supporters soon and the team managed to get the green signal for the project as part of this year’s edition of Shaastra. Even the faculty were forthcoming and Akhil specially mentions the support provided by Prof. M.M. Mayuram and Prof. Koshy Varghese and thanks them for donating the maximum number of computers.

The team explains that the idea is to have every institution donate old and used computers so that there is no need to pour in money for projects like the Aakash tablets. The Aakash tablet and this initiative address the same issue of making information and technology available, accessible and affordable. The team could set up over 20 working computers with the same amount of money needed to buy two Aakash tablets. They were able to put together 21 working systems and donated it to the Sevalaya Orphanage in Kasuva village on the inaugural edition of ‘Computer Literacy for All’. The team promises that it would be an annual event and not a one-time charitable act.

The main idea of the initiative is not only about donating computers to the needy. The team has joined hands with the National Service Scheme (NSS) chapter of the Institute to teach students how to use computers. As technology advances, the amount of e-waste that piles up is massive. Through this project, the volunteers hope to reduce the amount of e-waste generated on campus and that other institutes will also pick up the initiative. So, not only are the students of IIT Madras doing something good for the society, but also for the environment.