Over Ten Years of "Technology for Social Change"
By Aram Falsafi and Betsy Rueda
TecsChange-Technology for Social Change came about in the early
1990s at a Computers and Social Change conference held in Boston.
A group of conference attendees came together to discuss using technology
to promote progressive social change, primarily through assistance
to grassroots organizations - women's groups, trade unions, and
peasant organizations - in the developing world. This group, wishing
to continue their work beyond the conference, founded TecsChange
in 1992. Some of the founders had already been involved with grassroots
activism; others saw the potential of technology in general, and
computers in particular, to promote sustainable development, human
rights, and social justice in the developing world
TecsChange's first projects were focused on Latin America and southern
Africa. When a number of South African anti-apartheid activists
visited Boston in the summer of 1992, TecsChange volunteers created
a customized computer-training course for them. TecsChange also
organized public events on the uses of technology in the developing
world. In the fall of 1992, thanks to a truckload of donated computers
from Lotus Development Corporation, TecsChange started its computer
repair program, donating the refurbished computers to grassroots
organizations in the developing world.
In 1997, TecsChange decided to teach the skills that they had gained
in computer recycling with residents from low-income neighborhoods
of Boston. TecsChange's computer repair course emerged, where participants
work on refurbishing computers and upon graduation, earn a computer
that they have worked on. With well over 350 graduates to date,
it has been a highly successful endeavor, teaching hardware skills,
providing equipment to underserved populations, and getting much
needed technical equipment and training to grassroots groups here
Today, TecsChange continues to grow, with a solid core of technical
and non-technical volunteers and a small staff who provide computer
equipment, technical assessments, planning, training and support
to individuals and groups working for social change locally and
YouthTech - a small program with a big goal
YouthTech continues to build on the mission of TecsChange. It's
a small program with a big goal: to combine technology and media
to allow young people to foster social change in their communities.
In 2003, TecsChange staff and volunteers are running YouthTech on
Saturday mornings, and will offer it as an intensive day program
in the summer as well as later this year as an after-school program.
Over ten years, TecsChange has built itself and the technical resources
of grassroots groups mainly through the volunteer sweat equity of
hundreds of people who have given their time, energy and financial
support to help us provide technology for grassroots organizers
and activists here in our own community and in many other parts
of the world. The work never ends. But we continue to be motivated
and inspired by organizers and activists of all ages struggling
for social justice, in our communities and throughout the world.
For more information about TecsChange visit us at
Aram Falsafi is an electrical
engineer, long-time TecsChange volunteer, and a member of its steering
committee and Board. Betsy Rueda Gynn is the Program Director of
TecsChange. They can be reached at www.tecschange.org
or at 617.442.4456.