Computers for Schools (CFS) is an Industry Canada–led program that collects and refurbishes donated surplus computers for distribution to Canada's schools, libraries, not-for-profit learning organizations and Aboriginal communities. CFS helps Canadian students gain greater access to computer technology so they can develop the skills needed to thrive in a digital economy.
Since 1993, CFS has delivered more than 1.4 million refurbished computers and employed more than 6,000 youth interns across Canada. CFS operates refurbishing centres throughout Canada where surplus computers are overhauled and prepared for distribution. Workshops are staffed by youth hired under the Government of Canada's Youth Employment Strategy, volunteers (including current and retired telecommunications professionals), community members and students.
Economic Action Plan 2015 included a commitment of $2 million over two years to expand the CFS program to extend Canadians' access to refurbished computer equipment. Industry Canada will begin expanding the program in 2016-17 to include not-for-profit organizations that support low-income Canadians, new Canadians and other disadvantaged groups.
Each year, CFS workshops provide hundreds of young Canadians with paid, hands-on skills development opportunities through the Technical Work Experience Program. Youth interns have the opportunity to gain valuable experience toward future careers in the field of information and communications technology (ICT).
CFS also benefits the environment by ensuring that computer systems are refurbished and recycled, and by extending the useful life of computer assets. Non-working systems are disassembled, and functional parts are used to repair other systems. Remaining components are sent to provincially licensed recycling facilities.
Industry Canada administers CFS in partnership with the TelecomPioneers, a national volunteer association of current and retired telecommunications professionals, along with the provinces, territories and private and volunteer sectors.
Many organizations and private sector collaborators have contributed to the program's success. Partners include Bell Aliant, Bell Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Canadian National Railway Company, Manitoba Telecom Services, SaskTel and TELUS.
CFS accepts donations from all levels of government, the private sector and individuals. To minimize the time needed for refurbishment and to get the computers to the schools, libraries, not-for-profit learning organizations and Aboriginal communities as quickly as possible, CFS only accepts donated equipment in good working order.
CFS accepts IBM-compatible computers at the Pentium IV 3.2 GHz level, or Intel-based Macs, including the MacBook line, the Mac mini and the iMac. Schools and other learning organizations are asking for equipment of this type because this is the minimum level of technology required to handle the education software used in the classroom or to connect effectively to the Internet.
Accessories—such as LCD monitors, printers, modems, scanners, digital cameras and CD-ROM drives—may also be available upon request.
Each year, with support from the Canadian government's Youth Employment Strategy, CFS workshops provide hundreds of young Canadians with hands-on training and opportunities in ICT.
The Technical Work Experience Program provides students and recent graduates from information technology programs at colleges or universities with paid internships (to a maximum of 52 weeks) in CFS repair centres across Canada.
Under the supervision of CFS repair centre managers, young technicians repair and refurbish computer equipment, sort and test computer software, and prepare and package computers for shipment.
Volunteers are an essential part of the CFS success story: the TelecomPioneers is a co-founder of the program, and volunteers from telecom companies—including Bell Aliant, Bell Canada, Manitoba Telecom Services, SaskTel and TELUS—continue to ensure the program's success across the country.
The motto of the TelecomPioneers is “Answering the call of those in need.” Its members provide a broad base of community service programs that inspire over 20 million hours of volunteer time each year.
Volunteers from the TelecomPioneers, as well as a range of volunteers from other organizations and local communities, help to staff workshops, undertake refurbishment activities and arrange deliveries of computers to schools, libraries, not-for-profit learning organizations and Aboriginal communities across the country.