The Ark populates schools with discarded computers

Auckland-based company The Ark wants to get its hands on your old computers. Then it wants to open them up, do all sorts of things to them, and then ... pass them on to schools. vFor the past two years, it has been recycling old, unwanted computers, and selling them (and sometimes giving them) to schools.

Auckland-based company The Ark wants to get its hands on your old computers.

Then it wants to open them up, do all sorts of things to them, and then ... pass them on to schools.

For the past two years, it has been recycling old, unwanted computers, and selling them (and sometimes giving them) to schools.

The Ark’s sales manager, Kevin Mellon, a former teacher, says the company was driven by the enormous waste in the industry.

“People were dumping computers, not just one or two but truckloads of computers. They were taking them to the tip and running over them with bulldozers to destroy the data on the hard drive because it was too much trouble to organise the secure disposal of those machines.”

However, Mellon believes businesses would like the idea of their old computers being used in schools, helping with children’s learning.

Mellon says The Ark deletes any data on the hard drives of the machines it receives, and reconfigures the computers for educational use.

“We restore them as close as possible to their original condition. That involves perhaps cannibalising some of the other computers. We might buy 100 computers from a company and we might, if everything goes well, end up with 60 systems — two classloads.”

He says that, generally, the computers are not upgraded.

“We’re recyclers, not upgraders. On the odd occasion we may add some more memory.”

Sometimes The Ark gives away computers rather than sells them.

“We are a business, but we don’t have shareholders, so we’re not driven by the profit motive for the shareholders.”

The Ark gets computers from a variety of places. Sometimes it enters a tendering process for them and competes with other buyers, while other times the computers are discounted or even donated by businesses.

Some of the computers come through The Ark’s business sponsorship scheme, where businesses sponsor individual schools or specific areas of need.

The computers cover a mix of brands and range from old 286s through to nearly new Pentiums. The Ark also deals in Apple and Acorn computers as well as in printers and portable computers.

Mellon says the computer prices start around $100. He says The Ark aims to match the machine to the task. If a school needs a machine for a simple task it will advise spending $100 to $200, rather than $1000.

“Very often schools will come to us and they don’t know what equipment they need,” he says. “They don’t even know what they want to do in many instances.”

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