100 Drobos for Africa

Update: This is a contest entry for “100 Drobos” (check here). We’re trying to win 100 Drobos for HFC! Our code is 31337 which can be entered on this page or by sending the code to 100drobos@drobo.com. Help us make a difference with 100 Drobos!

Hackers for Charity is a non-profit organization that leverages the skills of technologists. We solve technology challenges for various non-profits and provide food, equipment, job training and computer education to the world’s poorest citizens.

Our largest program focusses on the country of Uganda, East Africa. Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world. Devastated by abject poverty, HIV/AIDS, malaria and a host of infrastructure problems, most Ugandans are in a daily struggle for survival.

We’re doing what we can to help.

Our work in Uganda, East Africa has two major focuses. First, we provide free computer-based training to International Aid organizations (like the Red Cross and others), Non-Government Organizations, the local Government, Police Officers, students, teachers and others. Second, we assist NGO’s and other aid organizations with technology needs including Internet connectivity, hardware repair, consultation, networking and more.

The services we provide help individuals gain skills necessary to disrupt the cycle of poverty and help organizations better serve the millions in need here in Uganda.

As technology becomes a part of the landscape here in Uganda, one thing has become very clear: information can save lives. However, because of the harsh environment, “The Big Three” (viruses, hardware failure, user error) are a constant threat to data integrity.

Losing your MP3 collection is one thing, but when lives depend on information,

corrupt or lost data costs lives. We’ve seen it over and over again.

Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s, or Non-Profits) work with individuals in dire need of support. Most NGO’s work with outside donors who provide money for food, education, medical care and more. When donor information is corrupted, money goes missing. When and NGO loses track of what money goes where, donor lose confidence and funding stops. Individuals served by the NGO go without food, education or medical care.

NGO’s and the individuals they serve need the industrial-grade data integrity the Drobo provides. We want to provide 15 Drobos to local NGO’s to help protect their administrative, clinical and child sponsorship and donor records. We’ll load their Drobos with hundreds of gigabytes of training software and shareware libraries to assist them in their work.

Hospitals: Patient records in Uganda are largely paper-based. These records are at constant risk, prompting many aid organizations to invest in computer equipment to help keep track of these records. However, most do not think ahead to backup solutions. We provide training to staff, but stuff happens. One system we worked with was destroyed by a mouse that made a home inside the system. A half-chewed IDE cable corrupted data before the staff even noticed anything was wrong. We can’t over-emphasize the importance of patient data because lives hang in the balance.

Jinja Main Hospital, Children's Ward

Hospitals need the industrial-grade data integrity the Drobo provides. We want to donate 10 Drobos to local hospitals to help protect their administrative and patient medical records, and we’ll hook them up with hundreds of gigabytes of training and medical reference data while we’re at it.

The educational standards in Uganda are extremely poor. Teachers work very hard, but are underpaid, undertrained and in short supply. Access to computers help bridge the information gap and provide students with skills that translate into jobs. (There are Computer Technology Master’s candidates in Uganda that have never touched a computer). We’re changing that one school at a time, but bandwidth is expensive so we load classroom machines with hundreds of GB of training and educational software.

HFC Volunteers along with Monte Hoover training students in Bugembe, Uganda

Because of high Internet prices and low speeds, massive local storage arrays are required in our school classrooms to give teachers and students the materials they need to make a difference. Drobo makes it easy to scale storage, so we want to give 50 Drobo units to local schools (along with donated computer systems) to make a positive generational impact on Uganda’s future. We also know that student records and administrative data is at risk here, too. Drobo to the rescue.

HFC-installed RACHEL classroom in Iganga, Uganda

As with most countries struggling with poverty, crime is on the rise in Uganda. The Uganda Police Force (UPF) is working hard to ensure that those struggling for survival in Uganda have a fighting chance. However, the police force is understaffed, underpaid and undertrained. We’re working to train them in our training center. Each officer who receives computer training is an asset to the force. But we want to take this one step further. We’re working closely with the UPF to provide data systems to replace the (now paper-based) criminal record system and it goes without saying that this system needs to keep an ultra-high level of data integrity. We’re going to donate 10 Drobos to the Ugandan Police to help protect their administrative documents and their criminal records system. And of course we’ll load them up with a ton of training software to help them along.

Police Officers training alongside underprivileged kids in out Computer Training Center in Jinja, Uganda

International organizations like the the United Nations, Red Cross, the Peace Corps and others have flooded Uganda, each doing what they can to help out those struggling here. However, their resources are stretched way too thin, and despite their often sizable financial backing, very little of that funding actually makes it to Uganda. Faced with the same difficulties and small budgets as other more grass-roots organizations, their struggles are the same despite the perceived wealth of their backing organizations. We want to give 5 Drobos to International Aid organizations like the Red Cross to give them the data integrity and storage they need to make a difference and to introduce their parent organizations to Drobo. And, yes, we’ll load them up with training software, too.

Some of the organizations we serve

When all the AID systems fail to help those in the most need, the ‘homeless’ organizations step in. Largely dealing with homeless orphaned children (“street kids”), these organizations have a tough job. As if providing food, shelter and medical care, homeless groups are flooded with kids facing addiction problems, criminal backgrounds and abusive guardians who want them away from the system, especially if the children are “breadwinners”. These shelter organizations face all the challenges of a “standard” NGO, and then some. We want to give 5 Drobos to “street kid” organizations to provide a few hundred gigs of training software and to help protect administrative, clinical and child sponsorship and donor records.

"Street kids" receive food, shelter and computer training through a partnership between HFC and "The Sanctuary"

We also want to keep 5 Drobos to help us in our work. We’ll use two in our computer training center where we house terabytes of training software, videos, CBT’s, and training records. We’ll use one unit for our web server where we host our own web pages along with the pages for the NGOs and other organizations we host, and we’ll use one for our local use to house training documents, ISO images, corrupted hard drive recovery data, administrative documents, tech tools, and more. We’ll also use one of these units for a caching server which will help speed up Internet transactions for all our clients.

We’ve talked about loading these Drobos up, and we’re serious about that. Each Drobo will contain the relevant bit of the following collection supplied by the good folks running the RACHEL project.

  • A copy of the Wikipedia encyclopedia with thousands of articles, photographs and references.
  • Thousands of electronic books from Project Gutenberg encompassing most of the literary classics.
  • Open courseware from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, Johns Hopkins University and the US National Library of Medicine including reference and course material in many subjects including Medicine, Health, Biology, Physics, Math, Science and much more.
  • Thousands of interactive teaching videos from Khan Academy on the subjects of Math, Science, Physics, Chemistry and more.
  • Basic Health References including many medical books designed to assist with medical treatment and education in remote villages.
  • Hundreds of interactive computer training courses including instruction in basic computer skills, typing, Microsoft Office (2003-2008), basic Internet usage and more.

There’s too much to list. Check out the folks at WorldPossible to see the complete list of hundreds of gigs of material.

So that’s our pitch. We’re excited about the 100 Drobo contest, and we can have a huge positive impact with this donation. Vote for us and help us save lives one Drobo at a time!