In March 2005, Cormac Lynch, Camara’s founder, travelled to Ethiopia to see if there was a way to viably use technology to educate children in disadvantaged and low-income areas of the world. An investment banker from Ireland, Lynch believed that by learning to use technology, these children could improve their education and so change their lives. One million children and over 12 countries later, Camara is helping to transform education by using technology to empower disadvantaged students.
The Camara education method is simple. It accepts equipment donations from corporations all over the world and then sets up “education hubs” with trained instructors. Those instructors, many of them volunteers, train local school teachers to use the equipment to help their students become more computer literate and tech savvy.
Currently, Camara has placed more than 65,000 computers in 3,500+ schools and trained over 15,000 teachers. The organization’s efforts inspired Equinix to select Camara as an Equinix Impact Program grant recipient.
Repurposing digital resources
One of the most compelling reasons for companies to donate computers to Camara is sustainability. Enabling corporations to take their unwanted computers and “renew” them for educational purposes is a very attractive idea to environmentally-committed businesses. This year, Camara expects to receive more than 30,000 machines from 500 – 600 companies, with Equinix contributing more than 200 computers.
Camara then refurbishes and/or repairs the computers so that they are ready for purchase by the schools at greatly reduced rates. According to Lynch, “Our goal is to provide each school with a computer lab with about 20 computers. A fully set up computer lab will educate 500 students per school.”
Relying on volunteers to sustain the program
“Our greatest asset is our volunteers,” Cormac said. “We have 80 full-time people working worldwide, who are supported by more than 300 volunteers.”
Camara’s volunteers come from student work placement programs worldwide that recruit high school and college students looking for hands-on training. For those jobs that require more technical skills, like computer repair, Camara recruits experienced, technically proficient professionals.
Bringing technology where it is most needed
According to a report by the United Nations, 4.2 billion people (60% of the world’s population) are not connected to the Internet, including in developed countries, where 22% percent are still not connected.
Camara sends computers and training to those areas of the world that need them the most ̶ even if that place is the heart of Silicon Valley. That’s why Camara has devoted a part of its $25,000 Equinix Impact Program grant to outfitting a low-income, middle charter school in San Jose with 40 computers and training.
Lynch explained “Surprisingly, this school in the heart of one of the world’s technology innovation centers was really struggling to bring technology to its students.”
Camara will use the rest of the grant to support schools in Haiti and Africa. Putting a computer lab into a school costs approximately $5,000, including the training. Lynch expects the Equinix funds and in-kind donations to impact more than 3,000 students worldwide.
Expanding its computer literacy footprint
Camara plans to double the number of computer-literate children it has trained worldwide from 1 million to 2 million in the next two years. To accomplish this goal, the company will need to grow its current number of educators in the field.
Lynch sees firsthand how technology has improved childhood education in the most disadvantaged areas of the world.
“Digital literacy is a powerful tool. We want to teach children how to use technology to change their own lives,” he said. “They are much more likely to get a job, look after their health and realize a better future.”