One of the great things about setting up a charity is the opportunity to get up close with the great work that other charities do in Scotland.
Before we set up Malaptop we had asked people if there was any charity doing a similar thing in Scotland because we were keen not to step anybody’s toes. Although we were aware of charities such as ComputerAid, they are based in London and have a strong focus on England. So at the time of setting the charity up, we were not aware of anybody doing anything similar in Scotland.
However, a few months after we had sent our first batch to Malawi, we learned about a charity in West Lothian called ReusingIT. Just after that we learned that there was a charity called the Turing Trust, whose founder is a student of the University of Edinburgh and is the great nephew of Alan Turing! So it turned out, there were a few charities that we had missed!
However we quickly realised that rather than it being a problem that there were other charities doing similar things in Scotland, it was actually a blessing. Both charities have been running longer than Malaptop, ReusingIT is the oldest and has been active for almost a decade. As a result, we were able to speak with both charities and find out what things had worked for them, and what had not worked so well. Learning from your own mistakes is important, however it is more effective if you can learn from others!
The Turing Trust and ResuingIT do slightly different things to Malaptop. The Turing Trust is focused on sending desktop PC units to Ghana. ReusingIT is focused on equipping schools throughout Africa, but also helps to supply people in West Lothian who are unable to get access to a computer through their own means.
Although there are slight differences all charities look to collect unwanted computer equipment from Scotland, refurbish it and enable more people to benefit and learn from the technology. We all rely on volunteers and need to obtain funding in order to operate. Both charities have been really useful in passing on their advice and hopefully we have been of some use to them as well. The Turing Trust also use Linux when refurbishing their computers and they used the distribution of Lubuntu that we had adapted for one of their shipments to Ghana, which was seen as an improvement on their previous system. This kind of collaboration is likely to continue in the future.
When we set up Malaptop we were worried that if we found somebody doing a similar thing in Scotland we would not be adding a great deal. However in setting up Malaptop we have found that there is such a big demand for IT facilities to be put to good use once they have been replaced that having a new organisation to come up with new ideas and ways of doing things can benefit the charities who are already operating.