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High-Tech Times Article 005

Hawaii Computers for Kids Program 2

You may recall that I told you about my Hawaii Computers for Kids Program back in September 1997.  Well, now it's bigger and even better for several reasons.  First, we've combined forces with Governor Cayetano's Computers for Schools Program that is administered by the Detwiler Foundation, and have expanded the program statewide.  Second, January 1st marks the start of the Taxpayers Relief Act of 1997.


Starting with this second part, the new law contains expanded tax incentives for the private sector(individuals and companies) to donate computer technology, equipment and software to K-12 schools.  Under the 21st Century Classrooms Act, a measure of the Taxpayers Relief Act, companies and individuals donating computers less than two years old are able to take a charitable tax deduction equal to the original purchase price of the equipment. Under the new law, a company donating a $1,000 computer, within two years of purchase, to an eligible K‑12 school would be able to take a charitable tax deduction of the full $1,000 purchase price.  This is like getting to use your computer absolutely free for two years!  To discourage computer "dumping" on schools, the incentive is available for only relatively up‑to‑date computers and for donations that are "useful to the recipient's education plan."


I realize that many thousands of you have already donated to Computers for Kids, but I have to admit that many of the computers we have received don't really allow the kids to use multimedia technologies, and quite a few don't even run Windows.  The Clinton administration now views computers as "off-the-shelf" commodities, and expects many people and most companies to buy newer systems every few years.  As a Management Information Systems Professor at Chaminade University myself, I'm not sure I agree with this, but I do expect many of you to take advantage of these new tax laws, and to start donating your older Pentium and Power Macintosh machines that fall within this two-year period.


I have not heard as yet from Detwiler or the Hawaii Department of Education on what they consider as "useful to their education plans," but I expect that any Windows 95-capable Pentium or Power Mac will qualify for the full write-off.  Please be sure to check with your accountant or tax lawyer to see if your company does qualify.


With the Detwiler Foundation's able help, Computers for Schools will really take off in 1998.  Detwiler is a non-profit foundation, based in San Diego, that was established in 1991 to provide California K-12 schools with computers.  They have now grown to support schools in seven states, including Hawaii.  After meeting with Laura Matsuda Colbert of the Governor's Office, and speaking at length with Jerry Grayson at Detwiler, it quickly became apparent to me that partnering Computers for Kids with Computers for Schools was the best way to help Hawaii's kids.


So after several months of discussion, we have combined the programs under the Computers for Schools name, but Detwiler also appreciated that Hawaii already had an extensive network of volunteers and donors in Computers for Kids.  To make a long story shorter, all of us decided to work together, and to use a local non-profit organization to serve as the local contact point for these programs.

This local organization is the Metropolitan Rotary Club of Honolulu, of which I am a member.  With 165 members, Metro can provide a lot of help with "on the ground" needs such as small pick‑ups and drop‑offs, performing tasks for events, helping arrange volunteers for smaller refurbishing sites and computer distribution & installation assisting with media and public relations.  This leaves Governor Cayetano's office and the Detwiler Foundation to handle administrative duties and standards‑setting, along with the DOE.


To help Computers for Schools grow, I'm working with Metro to do the following tasks:


(1) Set up a series of drop-off points around the state for donations, so that donors won't have to travel as far;


(2)  Set up even more computer refurbishing sites at K-12 schools statewide that want to have facilities to train their students - these will augment the state-level repair and upgrade facilities that Detwiler has set up with the Hawaii Corrections Industries;


(3)  Create a database that shows which schools need specific computer hardware and software, to eliminate the current hit-or-miss system I've had to live with;


(4)  Develop & disseminate a packet containing specific information on starting a computer-recycling program for businesses & agencies; and


(5)  Hold quarterly "drop-off" events around the state where donors can consolidate their excess hardware and software, and schedule their donations.


Detwiler has also been working hard on Computer for Schools.  They have arranged for the National Guard to deliver donations to the Neighbor Islands.  They have coordinated with Microsoft so that licenses of DOS are available for all donated computers, and are working to get unlimited licenses of Windows 3.X and 95.  And they have contacted a number of computer manufacturers to request grants and donations to our program.


So now what we need is your help in supporting Computers for Schools!!  Our friends at Pacific Business News have offered their support in advertising the program, as well as hosting a list of public and private donors.  KITV is working to prepare a series of public-service announcements.  Tech Corps Hawaii is working with us to provide tutors and support at schools (of course, it does help that I'm on their Board of Directors).  And I have begun talks with the Hawaii School-to-Work Opportunities System to integrate Computers for Schools student volunteers into their plans.


In summary, we have the opportunity to create a world-class training system for our kids, in support of the Hawaii Department of Education, using grass-roots community donations and volunteers rather than our hard-earned tax dollars.  Please contact me at 521-2259  or if you have donations, ideas, or want to volunteer for Computers for Kids activities.  We'll have more contact points that I'll publish right as soon as we firm up our new structure.


Thank you all in advance for your continued support, and let's make 1998 a huge success in support of our children!