August 20th, 2007

Rebooting Canada's Approach to E-waste
A bright idea to shrink the digital divide, and Third World landfills.
David Repa and Ifny Lachance, along with the rest of the folks at Free Geek Vancouver, want to give you a free computer. All it will cost to participate in their "adoption program" is 24 volunteer hours. During that time you will help to refurbish six computers, five of which they'll give away to low-income people. At the end of it, you walk away with number six, a souped-up "Freekbox" outfitted with the latest version of Ubuntu (a user-friendly distribution of Linux, a free, open-source operating system). Right now Repa, Lachance and co. are paying for the program out of their own pockets. They say they're concerned about the world's widening digital divide -- and the tonnes of toxic e-waste produced by Canadian consumers each year -- and they’re betting volunteers and donors will take note.

The business of bringing hope to Africans in need
Vancouver commerce students are going overseas, hoping to share their economic and market know-how
Some academics spend the summer attending conferences, touring Europe or relaxing on a beach. In search of something entirely different, two Vancouver professors and their students are spending this summer in African slums, helping to develop local businesses. "I go on a lot of August vacations and come back with a bunch of pictures with nothing else to show," said Bob Gateman, a professor of law and economics at the University of British Columbia. "I thought I'd like to do something that had long-lasting meaning." Prof. Gateman is volunteering with a program called Social Entrepreneurship 101, an unusual cross between economic development, education and Third World aid. Started last year in Kenya by Nancy Langton, a professor with UBC's Sauder School of Business, the program aims to match the skills of Canadian commerce students and young African adults with business ideas. The Canadians gain work experience and an opportunity to apply their classroom learning in the real world. "[They] get to experience a different culture as a participant in society, rather than as a tourist," Prof. Langton said.