In India, Gandhi Day is celebrated with parades and festivities. But in New Haven, a group of Yale students and New Haven residents celebrated the Mahatma’s birthday by organizing a computer drive.
Approximately 35 people volunteered Saturday at the Regal Inn to begin the drive that will eventually ship 375 used computers to rural areas of India. The project is a joint effort by Yale University Recycling, the Yale chapter of Asha for Education, Digital Partners, Pitney Bowes, and the Connecticut office of World Computer Exchange.
Individual and corporate volunteers worked four hour shifts writing receipts, testing equipment and packing the computers into a 40-foot trailer in the parking lot of the hotel.
The computers will be distributed to over 100 villages in the Indian state of Gujarat, an area hit by a massive earthquake two years ago. The villages were chosen by the Self-Employed Women’s Association, which is the largest union in India with 250,000 members. SEWA founder Ela Bhatt received an honorary degree from Yale in May.
The computers are intended to enable women in the villages to manage their trades and improve communication, Asha leader Hitten Zaveri said. The technology will also serve educational purposes for children.
“The goal is to break rural isolation,” Zaveri said.
Asha coordinator Vinod Krishna GRD ’04 said the project is an extremely large-scale endeavor for a group as small as Yale’s chapter of Asha, which has approximately 15 active members. Asha is an action group devoted to improving education for underpriveleged children in India.
On Saturday, Yale University Recycling donated most of the 100 computers while New Haven residents donated the remainder.
Asha for Education chapters in Washington, D.C. and New Jersey shipped an additional 100 computers to New Haven on Sunday. The World Computer Exchange — an organization that works to connect poor youth to the Internet in Africa, Asia and Latin America — will donate the remaining 175 computers.
WCE, in its second year of operation, has sent 12 shipments of computers to 10 countries. Bill Wilmot, the coordinator of WCE’s Boston branch, said that the company is interested in opening an office in New Haven in the next couple of years.
“There’s a lot of interest here,” Wilmot said. “There are a lot of connections with the organization.”
Digital Partners, a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading information technology to poverty-stricken areas of the world, also gave SEWA a $30,000 grant.
The plan for the project was finalized in July 2000. Since then, much of the work has been devoted to securing customs clearance from India.
The coordinators said that it will take approximately six months to install the computers in the villages. Representatives from the group are expected to visit India this winter and this summer to check on the status of the project.