Technology for social justice

Celebrating 10 years of Green PC

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In 2000, when the world was in a panic about the Y2K bug, governments and corporations got rid of thousands of computers that they feared would crash at the millennial rollover. At the same time, Infoxchange was struggling to find computers for its work on public housing estates in inner Melbourne. 

The deluge of unwanted government and corporate computers was an absolute boon for Infoxchange’s program to provide access to computers in community facilities on the 11 estates. 

One of the residents who was accessing the computers in the community facility said it was great to have a computer to access but "it would be so much better to have one at home, then my kids could use it for school". The seed was planted.

Infoxchange had around 3000 computers stored in garages and sheds around Melbourne. At the time, the new Victorian Government introduced a vocational program to provide opportunities for long-term unemployed people, resulting in Infoxchange receiving a grant that allowed the employment of twenty-five people who were put to work stripping, cleaning and rebuilding the stores of computers.

Five of these workers were located in Robinvale on the Murray River, who were shipped 300 computers to set up a small operation in partnership with the local CEDP program.

Not only were the 25 people required to refurbish the computers but they had to develop and run this as a business, a social enterprise. Green PC was born.

And it boomed. So successful was the project that Councils and Governments in other states wanted to assist in the establishment of GreenPC in their areas. It was not long before the project was rolled out in Queensland, ATC and Western Australia.

In 2006 a Green PC operation was established in Timor Leste. This Info Timor today employs twenty people and has two workshops, one in Baucau and one in Suai. It is currently being assessed to be Timor’s first NGO Registered Training Organisation delivering ICT certified training.

Amelia van Leeuwen Bellmont, one of GreenPC's founding members, looks back at the 10 years with a smile. "It has come a long way in 10 years and so have I!" she says, "I’ve had the chance to see it change and adapt with the times and help so many people along the way".

"It's been a very special organisation from its inception; both for the team and family aspects of working in that area, to being able to help organisations and individuals with their day to day lives."

In it's time GreenPC has delivered over 30 000 computers to low-income and disadvantaged communities and individuals. Over 500 people have been employed and training through Green PC, of which over 80 percent have moved to other employment or further studies.

The success of Green PC is largely attributed to the people who have worked in Green PC. They were given an opportunity, worked together and built a successful social enterprise that has withstood the test of time.

*The Green PC program closed in 2016

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