After two weeks of hard work, tech and indymedia activists here in Portland completed and sent off 70 machines for the Computers For Ecuador project. The project was started by activists in the San Francisco Bay Area, who have been building computers in Oakland at the same time, with the help of the Alameda County Computer Resource Center. BIG PROPS to Free Geek, here in town, which donated the equipment. MORE PROPS to all the folks who helped with this project, from Free Geek, portland indymedia, and the community, at least two dozen in all, who put in hours and hours of labor, often until the wee hours of the morning. Folks who knew nothing about computer hardware or installing operating systems (like me) learned tons and had a great time doing it. Ever had to deal with 'kernel panic'? I don't want to get into the details, but let me tell you, it's a character-building experience.
The computers are bound for Ecuador, where the FTAA Summit of the Americas is taking place at the end of October and protests are planned. The technology is intended to help empower activists there with media work and community organizing. So when you read news from the anti-corporate globalization demonstrations in Quito next month, you can think to yourself, 'maybe these words were typed on a FreekBox from Portland'!
The computers that we sent are older machines, considered too slow to use in this country. However, with the lightweight Linux operating system installed, they perform quite admirably. Also, this project extended the life of the equipment, keeping it out of landfills for a bit longer. Computer equipment is toxic, and 'e-waste' is becoming a serious issue.
PDX activists hope to repeat this project in the future, but with people needing computers who are closer to home. Stay tuned to portland indymedia for details. If you didn't get involved this time, you'll have another chance!