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Closing the Digital Divide One Computer at a Time

Reglue is a non-profit whose main aim is to put working computers into the hands of kids from families that can’t afford them. To do this, they rely on donations of hardware, Linux as the operating system, and many pre-installed free software apps to help the children get started right away.

The road Reglue followed to Linux is a pretty typical one. When they started out, they were installing Windows XP, the most common and used operating system at the time. Being a non-profit carrying out charitable work, they asked Microsoft for cheaper licenses for their machines. Without these cheaper licenses, the organisation would not be able to continue their work, they told the company. Microsoft refused the request.

Furthermore, after a few weeks of each install, the XP machines would become riddled with viruses and malware. At a rate of installation of 6 machines per week, the support needs of scrubbing and cleaning the leaky operating systems threatened the entire project, consuming all its human resources.

Switching to Linux solved all that. Linux comes with no licensing cost, very low maintainance, and, what’s more, better performance on the older, second hand hardware Reglue is refurbishing.

Reglue’s founder, Ken “Helios” Starks, has been around for quite some time now. Old-timers like myself have followed his struggles and musings reading his blog and marvelling at his patience, persistence and passion for years. He has plenty of stories to tell of how the machines Reglue installs have helped the children overcome poverty and move on to become successful in their later life.

Take the case of Brandy, who is now studying Biomedical Engineering. A refurbished Linux machine is obviously not the only reason she is succeeding, but the fact that she had access to computer at all while she was a youngster, plus the fact that Linux is used extensively in her chosen area of study, helped a lot. Her brother Richie is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Technology, inspired by the technology Rugler made available to him.

Or take Ricky, an autistic 10-year-old who managed to relate to his computer because Linux allowed the Reglue engineers to tailor the interface to his emotional needs.

Reglue now runs yearly crowdfunding campaigns and this year’s campaign is currently live. They are seeking to raise USD 9,000 to restore more computers and help more kids.

Do you have a project that helps kids from financially-disadvantaged environments using Free Software or Free Culture resources? Join Pling and let us help you get funded and create the community you need.