[Linux-aus] Grant application: ComputerBank NSW

Tregenza wetsgt at hunterlink.net.au
Wed May 5 12:05:47 UTC 2004

Hi Leon
Thanks for your support.

ComputerBank Australia is effectively a federation of semi-autonomous
operating units within the 'computerbank-ish' umbrella.  There has been
little if any interbranch operational coordination in respect to financial
transactions.  Each branch (and within NSW each regional operational unit)
is responsible for its own costs and revenues.

ComputerBank generally has taken a minimalist approach to finances.  With
some notable corporate sponsorship exceptions secured some time ago by
ComputerBank in Victoria, each ComputerBank has been run essentially on
financial and other provided by volunteer members. This has included both
cash and in kind contibutions for transport, storage and related costs - let
alone opportunity costs. Inevitably the more active a member the more likely
it is that they cough up to get the job done.

The rapidly increasing scope and scale of 'donations' (in) and
'distributions' (out) has already worn thin with many in NSW.  And the
additional transport/logistics costs required for operational units outside
Sydney (eg New England and Hunter) is becoming problemmatic.

Philosophically, ComputerBank units have taken the generous view that
ComputerBank provides 'free computers' (both hardware and software.  As
increased cost and other resource pressures begin to bite on the operational
realities needing to be addressed to remain viable, there is emerging a
tendency for a new philosophical expression - 'low cost' computers.

The cause of Computerbank is both helped and hindered by the strangthening
policy position of government in all spheres: Commonwealth, State/Territory,
local, national and regional.

As the demand increases for keeping eWaste out of landfill, more people are
becoming aware of the issue (hazardous waste, less than optimum resource
consumption, etc). Individuals (domestic) are looking for local solutions
beyond merely putting the unwanted product out on the street for 'waste
collection'. Companies are looking for a socially responsible and
economically attractive process for disposal.  Local government is awaiting
leadershipo and direction from its masters (the State government). Some
local governments are endeavouring to address the issues at an informal
regional scale. State/Territory governments are discovering the scope and
scale of the issues (and the politics) and are releasing more and more
position papers, discussion papers, short term pilot programs, etc. Arguably
the ACT (ACT NOW!)and SA are further advanced than other States/Territories
with focused and firm policy and program direction and leadership. The
Commonwealth is narrowly focused from a constitutional point of view and
addresses hazardous exports/imports, and the higher issues of concern.
Nationally (States/Territories and the Commonwealth consulting together) are
grappling with developing a relevant and locally meaningful way forward.

Internationally, various nations states and jurisdictions within those
states are grappling along similar lines.  It is noteworthy that those
countries that manufacture most of the world's IT equipment have options not
readily availaible to IT importing countries like Australia. Thus
implementation of Extended Producer Respponsibilities in the US or Singapore
are likely to be differently configured than they will be in Australia.

Dell US behaviour for example is and will likely be different to Dell
Australia with their so-called 'take-back hype.

Then there's the (still evolving) role and activities of commercial
recyclers (eg MRI or HMR) and the complex brokers/wholesale/retail

Innovative and not-so-innovative policies and programs are starting to
emerge around the world - driven not only by hardware issues but by Open
Source software and other IT issues and opportunities. By 2006, it is my
prediction that Australia will have quite a different eWaste policy and
program scenario than we have now.

Innovative approaches and solutions are urgently called for to address the
core ComputerBank objectives to ensure operational longevity and
- overcoming the digital divide
- keeping computers out of landfill
- facilitating the use of GNU/Linux.

Therefore, suggestions such as yours, Leon, are worth further exploration,
having regard to the organisational realties and capacities of the various
ComputerBank volunteer-based operational units and its constitutional

In NSW there are economies of scale to be gained in freight costs.  The
bigger the truck the cheaper the freight costs per unit.  But without a
steady/ready source of cash, it is 'cheaper' to use a fleet of members cars
to pick up 50 computers than to hire a truck to pick up 50 computers.

One enterprising ComputerBank outfit have proposed supplying one publicly
funded whole community project with a large volume of computers (250) for a
'donation' of the approximate cost of transport, temporary storage and
logistics handling.

As the volume of donated computers has grown, ComputerBank in Sydney have
undertaken to outsource the distribution of received computers through other
charitable organisations eg Mission Australia who are running a recycling
project as a Work for the Dole activity are being supplied with a stream of
computers - they pick up at our Sydney repository. While this saves some
costs to ComputerBank, it doesn't cover other costs eg donation
pickups/temporary storage/floor rent.

There are a number of so-called community-based not for profit computer
reuse programs/organisations having an allied objective to ComputerBank.
Some eg Work Ventures in Sydney and Green PC in Melbourne/Brisbane are
heavily supported and flavoured by particular government and MS
arrangements. Many of these organisations have employed staff, 'sell' their
computers and are often well-established in other areas of 'commity
activity'.  To some extent ComputerBank is in competition with them.  It is
of course our view that there is not a level playing field.

Some ComputerBank units as a matter of survival and operational policy,
don't pick up or deliver, only take delivery or hand refurbished computers
over to recipients at its repository.

ComputerBank has not been in the business of supplying computers to a
[commercial] 'corporation'. It only supplies to not for profit community
organisations and disadvantaged individuals (subject to various locally
determined conditions/qualifications). Generally speaking the sort of
community organisations we donate to are themselves not 'cash rich' which is
why we have tended to supply 'free' computers to them (most commonly as a
network installation).

ComputerBanks in various States rarely have an opportunity to become
involved in an interstate donation/transport donation. Transport costs of
picking up in Sydney and shipping to the NT are not within our normal
perspective.  (There is however some thought being given by Vic and NSW to
assist the fledgling ComputerBank in Tasmania, so far with no real

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