Volunteers at the University of Iowa will box up 400 donated computers in crates today for shipment to western Africa. Cliff Missen, director of the U-of-I’s WiderNet Project, says the hardware, software, networking gear and other technical equipment is all headed for Nigeria. The computers were donated by hundreds of individuals in eastern Iowa and a few companies and volunteers have spent many long hours working on them, updating and fixing them. Missen, who’s made around a dozen trips to Nigeria, says this is the second large shipment of computers that have been sent to that nation from Iowa in the past two years. The computers are going to two universities which have about 40-thousand students combined with only about 100 total computers, very few of which are for student use. The computers from Iowa, even though they’re old by our standards, will be much-welcomed. Missen says there’s probably a quarter-million dollars worth of computer gadgetry by U.S. standards but in Nigeria, he says, they’ll be worth much, much more. Missen says most of the computers will go onto the desktops of students, giving them their first access to e-mail and the Internet. He explains the goal of the WiderNet program.”Education is all about communication,” he says. “Most of the materials we work with now are in a digital format and on the Internet. Without access to those kinds of materials, the students there are just operating in a completely different century.” For more information about the WiderNet Project, visit “www.widernet.org”.
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