In November 1999, this article describing the TecsChange-NUEYS partnership appeared in the journal Nonprofits and Technology, a publication of the Philanthropy News Network.

Tech partnership benefits Africa's youngest nation

By Jeni Lyttle


Eritrea Two groups in the Boston area are joining forces to help advance the development of Eritrea, Africa's newest country.

Eritrea, which gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, is becoming self-reliant, thanks in part to the technology help it is getting from the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) and Technology for Social Change, or TecsChange.

NUEYS is an international group that focuses on education and training, especially in technology-related disciplines, says NUEYS-Boston chairman Tesfay Meressi.

"NUEYS-Boston was formed to help Eritreans in this area be part of the reconstruction and development of their country," he says. "Technology transfer and sending computers to Eritrean schools are two of our immediate goals."

NEUYS is getting help with those goals from TecsChange, a Boston nonprofit founded in 1992 that uses computer technology to promote social progress in developing countries.

TecsChange gives a free computer to those who graduate from its Earn-A-Computer program, in which students learn to refurbish donated hardware. It also provides computers and tech assistance via e-mail to grassroots organizations in countries such as Nicaragua, South Africa, El Salvador and Haiti.

Aram Falsafi, a long-time TecsChange volunteer, says the benefit of the partnership is threefold: "Students learn and are then able to help their home countries. With these two elements in place, TecsChange is able to fulfill its mission of improving social progress in these countries.

"We chose Eritrea largely because of our commitment to social change. What is truly unique about Eritrea is the development model its government has chosen. It is emphasizing self-sufficiency and coming up with its own solutions," Falsafi says.

In August, NUEYS-Boston members began attending weekly TecsChange workshops, where they are learning to upgrade, diagnose and repair donated computers.

"By doing so, they get valuable training and experience, making them active participants in the information age," Meressi says.

All of the computers they repair will be shipped to NUEYS in Eritrea, where they will be distributed for use in schools, colleges or a computer training center, says Falsafi of TecsChange. Because some of the students may return to Eritrea, the program exports more than just hardware.

"We encourage participants to go back to Eritrea to train others to maintain and repair the shipped computers," Meressi says. "This is meant to help in the continuity of the program. NUEYS in Eritrea will identify needy schools, distribute repaired computers and help maintain those computers."

Falsafi says TecsChange would like to replicate its refurbishing and teaching programs outside the U.S., and hopes its relationship with NUEYS-Boston will lead to such projects.

"We hope to set up cooperatives or training centers in developing countries that can receive shipments of untested computers from TecsChange," he says. "This will provide jobs for people who train local residents in computer repair, and at the same time provide residents with access to affordable computers."

Meressi says that NUEYS-Boston is grateful for the partnership with TecsChange.

"The project is expected to be long-term and we plan to make it a model for other NUEYS branches to follow," he says. "Our hope is to involve as many members as possible, train them and encourage them to train others, both here and in Eritrea."

Jeni Lyttle can be reached at
this e-mail link.