Ludovic Gautier
Ludovic Gautier, Head of Programmes, Computer Aid

We spoke with Ludovic Gautier, Head of Programmes at Computer Aid, to find out about the initiative to supply laptops to universities in Ukraine via GÉANT’s partner URAN, the Ukrainian national research and education network. The shipment consists of 65 laptops that will help the academic community to carry out remote teaching, access online resources, conduct research and communicate with peers. All parties involved hope that this is the first shipment as work continues to provide more IT equipment for Ukrainian universities in 2024. Our conversation with Ludovic also gave us insight into how Computer Aid is making a difference in people’s lives around the world.

So, Ludovic, how and when did it all start?

For the benefit of your readers let me start by saying that Computer Aid is a UK based charity that aims to provide high quality refurbished IT equipment to NGOs, NFP organisations, universities, schools, community centres etc. In the past 25 years, we have developed a network of reliable partners in the United Kingdom that donate their IT equipment. We are using it worldwide in a range of projects that bring social value. The recent COVID pandemic brought out the importance of new technologies in our lives and made our services even more relevant. In June 2023 we were approached by GÉANT about investing funds raised for URAN by the international research and education community. We had already established some connections with trusted partners in Poland since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the devastating consequences for its population. We have been collaborating with World Vision and CORE to provide support to Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Poland. GÉANT put us in touch with URAN to find the best way to deliver IT equipment to their doorstep. We rarely work in Europe or in war zones, so the local partnerships were paramount for the success of the project. For this initiative, we reached out to four local knowledgeable partners that brought their specific expertise.

What is the mission and vision of Computer Aid and how does it align with the needs of the Ukrainian academic community?

Computer Aid is a charity organisation that aims to reduce the digital divide by providing access to technology and enhancing educational experiences. Our mission is to help bridge the digital gap, which has become increasingly important in our lives, especially after the pandemic. We have provided over 300,000 IT items in more than 100 countries since 1998, but we do not only provide access to new technologies. We have also been developing local partnerships worldwide to provide training, connectivity and find relevant content to our end-users. We work mostly in the educational sector, but we have also developed projects in health, agriculture, biodiversity and gender equality. We use solar power to run our computers in areas where the electricity supply is either nonexistent or unreliable. Our projects are determined by the needs of local communities, our partners also help us to ensure sustainability once the project timeline ends. Our aim is to create long-term, measurable results.

Which challenges did you face while implementing this initiative and how did you overcome them?

The most difficult part of the project was to find an easy way to deliver the IT equipment directly to Ukraine. We contacted CORE that had already delivered goods in the country, and who we knew well, and they put us in touch with local transport companies that were able to take the equipment safely from our warehouse in Manchester to URAN in Kyiv.

How did you select and prepare the laptops for the donation and how did you ensure the safe and timely delivery?

The equipment donated to us is professionally refurbished to the highest UK standard, any equipment below that standard is recycled. On average we keep 65% of the equipment received. So, the selection very much depends on the equipment we receive. If possible, for each project we try to provide similar models as it’s better for the recipients. For URAN we selected only one type of laptop to make things easier for customs and to have a more standardised approach. We sent them to Ukraine via GEPALogistics, a Polish partner which knows the local environment very well. Our objective was to deliver the laptops before the festive season, and we are proud to say that we succeeded. The equipment, 65 laptops and charging cables, was delivered to URAN’s Charitable Found in Kyiv on 15 December 2023.

How can people outside Ukraine support Computer Aid and URAN in their mission and vision and what are the donation opportunities?

Computer Aid receives equipment donation mostly in the UK, but we can also refurbish equipment on site in other countries so any company can approach us. As an individual, anyone can promote our main message in line with our carbon neutral policy: Use or Reuse your IT equipment as long as possible. Take care of it, fix it, it’s economically viable and good for the environment. A three-year-old computer is often as good as a new one.

How does Computer Aid plan to measure the success of this initiative, are there any plans to expand this initiative to other countries?

Throughout 2024 we will stay in touch with URAN to gather feedback from them and understand how they use the machines and the impact they will have on their work. We hope to keep supporting the Ukrainian population through further donations next year.

We are immensely grateful to the GÉANT Community, the Vietsch Foundation and Computer Aid for their unwavering support to Ukrainian universities during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Their generous donations of refurbished computers, services and connectivity have enabled universities to continue their educational role in these challenging times. They are truly our vital partners.

Yevhenii Preobrazhensky, Executive Director, URAN Association

To find out about the impact of Computer Aid’s equipment donation on the Ukrainian universities affected by the war, keep an eye on these pages and the GÉANT CONNECT website in the coming months.

About GÉANT and the Vietsch Foundation
In April 2022 GÉANT and the Vietsch Foundation launched an initiative to support URAN, this project, legally and financially managed by the Vietsch Foundation aims to gather and channel funds donated by European NRENs to URAN during the Russian invasion. For further information about this initiative, please contact Irina Matthews EaPConnect Project Manager, GÉANT.

*URAN, the National Research and Education Network of Ukraine, is one of the beneficiary partners of the EU funded project EaPConnect.