Laptops for People in Kenya Villages

Hi Ken,

thanks for the response and I will answer below next to your points.

On Sat, Dec 26, 2009 at 8:24 PM, Kevin wrote:

Dear Karel,

Thank you for your email about your wonderful project.  After working in Kenya for six years on the Maywood Rotary Kenya Project, I do have some concerns about your goal:

1.  Solar panels are much cheaper in Kenya than most anywhere else.  But the solar companies are not willing to make contributions of their product.

< I have about a year to set this up, so if I calculate it will be cheaper to buy the panels there than to struggle with import duties and paperwork, absolutely no problem.

2.  I have had many solar panels stolen, you have to secure them, fence off the area, and have paid 24 hour security to deter thieves from stealing them and reselling them.

Do you think it is possible to find some village where they will be able to manage this themselves? For example, I’m not interested in being some naive Santa Clause throwing things left and right, but I want to believe villagers that they will put the equipment to good use, and I want to make sure there will be at least enough bright and responsible people there. I have taught myself everything on the computer, so I know it is possible and I can teach others. I have a feeling that the younger population will be better. Those who can soak up languages like a sponge soaks up water. Computers are like a language. But the people also need to be self motivated. I am not interested in helping lazy, ignorant people who will only want to play computer games or sell the panels for short term gain. I will want to meet these people and they will have to convince me. Perhaps I could put a free ad somewhere and I can already start communicating with candidates before I get there?

So they would have to convince me that at least one person there is motivated enough, intelligent enough, and that the rest of the village will protect the equipment. Once that person learns and starts making an income, they can teach the rest of the village.

3.  I think you have underestimated the amount of theft from the villages, you have no safeguards in place to insure that all your laptops and solar are not taken and sold by the villagers.

4.  I suggest you do NOT bring or ship laptops into Kenya as the import taxes are 50% of the value of each item, it would be cheaper to buy it there.  Or have a lot of money with you to cross the boarder and pay for it.

< I hope to resolve this with the government ahead of time. I am trying to round up a bunch of donated and used laptops from people. I think it would be silly to pay any import duty if I will be giving them away, and if the government does not want to help its own people, perhaps I might choose another country. We’ll see how that goes.

5.  Many Kenyans in rural are not literate enough to work a computer without a year or two of training, first Kiswahalli, then English.

Kiswahalli is a language I guess? One of my plans is to write down everything I have learned on the computer and by which I earn my own living. Then to find volunteers willing to translate it into a local language. Make some sort of template which can be installed onto the laptops. After that they just need the time, brains and motivation to learn it all. Just curious, do people have spare time in poor villages? Or do they have to help their parents with farming etc.? Is it possible that there could be a young bright kid with motivation and capacity to absorb a lot of this very quickly? Let’s say I managed to put together several project villages, I could drive between them regularly, camp out with them in my caravan, perhaps stay at each one for a week, teach English, motivate them, help them on the computer. I would prefer that the laptop is used all day long and as many hours as possible. Perhaps the children etc. can rotate, or the most promising one spends more time on it. As soon as one person starts making any income, then they can work towards buying a second laptop etc. and teaching others to do the same. If it is sunny down there I would think that a single panel could power at least three laptops. Then one or two big batteries could power at least one laptop until midnight.

6.  Internet access from an IP are about $300.00 dollars a month plus time on line.

< They can learn everything offline, and if they get some work, they can transfer it through memory stick at an internet cafe. I’ve survived this way for years without a problem. Most of my jobs are offline. But to be able to run my business I definitely need internet. Possible through mobile phone? Are there cafes with wifi? I definitely need to sort this out for myself, but the villagers don’t need internet so much.

7.  I would not recommend traveling through the Sudan, it’s really not secure and you could lose all your equipment on the road by thieves and without paid guards your life will be in danger.

< Suspected that. I’m glad for your realistic picture. Many were painting it quite rosey, but I’m a realist and I’d like to spend the next year making solid preparations, before I go down there.

8.  I would suggest that you find the money to pay one person in each village to monitor, guard and supervise the use of your equipment.

< Can’t see that happening. The villagers have to care and want to learn. If they don’t I’m just throwing my efforts out the window. They have to convince me that it will be a good investment.

9.  For advice on which villages to assist, I suggest you contact local NGOs and perhaps enlist the help of their local workers.

< Do you know how I could find these? Not sure where to start.

10.  Portable solar lanterns might be less costly and more practical than LED lighting for studying.

< They sell those locally I guess? I wired my truck up with LED lights and its easy. I can help them with the wiring. I’m a jack of all trades.

11.  As a NGO in Kenya, I would NOT suggest you try this program in the Maasai Mara because legal protections there for your equipment and agreements do NOT apply; inconsistent tribal law applies only.

< I gather this is in Kenya? Yah, definitely want to pick safe enough areas, but preferably as rural as possible, and some reasonable bus distance from an internet cafe (not far away town etc.). If I can accomplish something like that it will create a good template and example for potential sponsors.

12.  If you want to increase your donations, it would be wise to set up a 5013c tax deductible foundation or a Euro foundation that will be recognized in the USA.

< I’ve sent out some emails regarding this but it’s all new territory for me. Do you have any suggestions? I have lots of friends in the US who could do leg work for me, but don’t really know where to start. I myself have Canadian and European citizenship, and have contacts all over. I’ve been thinking about this as well and trying to get the ball rolling in that direction. Any tips you might have would be appreciated.

I hope, Karel, that I am not being to pessimistic, but I just want you to avoid all the pitfalls that my and other organizations faced in trying to make change in Africa.  I can see that you are very determined and will do well reaching your goals if you can avoid these problems.  If you need any further information from me, please feel free to email me at any time.

< Nope, this is perfect. I definitely need sound information. Your tips have helped me greatly and looking forward to progressing with this.

Thanks a lot,



Hello Holger,

what website could you link to mine from?

Concerning the attachments, I assume the villages where I want to try this will not have any networks etc., quite possibly not even electricity, so the only extra I want to start with is a usb memory stick so they can take work to a cafe and transfer stuff that way. The rest online. We’ll see, but thank you for your suggestions.

The rest I think I’ve got well covered. Maybe you know of some organisation who collects used, donated laptops? Just grasping at straws and for ideas at the moment.

Take care,


2009/12/28 Holger

Hello Karel,

thank you for your e-mail.

I thought about your idea and your question if it is feasible to help Africans to earn money through translations. To tell you the truth, I don’t know the African translation market or the market for African languages at all and, unfortunately, am not in need of translation services in an African language until now. But I also had a look at the website of your charity project and yes, basically, I’m interested in helping you there if I can. Exchanging links is quite easy and I would agree in doing this. As you are trying to distribute laptops to African villages you also might need attachments, such as modems, routers, PCMCIA cards for WLAN access, cables, printers and so on. If I can help you there in some way, let me know. Or perhaps I can give you some advice regarding the advertisement of translation services in online portals such as But as you are running a translation business yourself you probably have already the necessary know-how (and “know-where”). I look forward to hearing from you and wish you a happy and successful new year!



  1. //

    Hey karel
    I want to congratulate you for what youre doing in Kenya, its a very brilliant I dea, many people will benefit from it. I’m student from kenya studying in Houston. I’m also working on a project to build many village a community library and they also can benefi from your project once the library is finished.

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