Help fund computing labs for girls in Afghanistan

Will Goldie is a Boy Scout in California, working on his Eagle project. It’s an ambitious one: working alongside Trust in Education, a group that organises educational, economic and business development programs in rural Afghanistan, he’s raising funds to equip a computer lab for a girls’ school. The Pi will form the centrepiece of what Will’s doing, and he has an Indiegogo running, starting today, to raise the money.

Will’s been emailing with Eben about his idea for a little while now, and we’re really pleased that he’s been able to start putting it in place. The major cost here is the monitor (display technology remains an aggravatingly expensive part of the equation when you’re buying everything as new); Will’s calculations say that it will cost $190 to set up each computer when peripherals are taken into account. He’s aiming to raise sufficient money for ten, but if he exceeds that goal any extra money will go into providing more computers for the girls. It goes without saying, but we would very much like to see him exceed his goal.

This project presses all my buttons. Teaching computing, reaching girls in environments hostile to their education, enabling young women to access opportunities and options that were previously closed to them: making a big difference with a small device. I’ve put my money where my mouth is on this one, and have funded the project – I really hope you will too.


The Raspberry Pi Guy avatar

What an amazing project… I will be backing later

The Raspberry Pi Guy

Ish Rashad avatar

Good on you, Liz, for writing about this wonderful project. And yes, it does grab me too – from every perspective.
Have contributed towards Will’s terrific project and I hope I will be able to support it again soon.
Cheers from Australia,

Greg Macaree avatar

I wonder if the MOD would donate monitors that are ‘in country’ already rather than shipping them home ??

Stewart Watkiss avatar

A great campaign. It’s good to see the Raspberry Pi used in this way helping teaching computing to girls that would otherwise not have that opportunity. I’ve sent a little money their way.

ColinD avatar

Really fantastic project. Well worth supporting, and I’ll be sending a load of $$ your way this evening.

Tom avatar

This represents the very highest ideal of an Eagle Scout project. What a great idea!

Patrick - Bethesda, Maryland, USA avatar

Right after 9/11 – Then Congressman Obama refused to go after the Taliban. He voted “No” to stopping the thugs that hold these women back. It’s nice to see The Raspberry Pi Foundation help these fine women in a way that Obama refused to do.

Seth avatar

No, Obama loves women’s rights. How could you lie about our great president. You’re probably racist.


Patrick - Bethesda, Maryland, USA avatar

I speak the truth.

[Mod edit – rest snipped for politics: that’s marvellous, Patrick, but please go and do it elsewhere. This is not the time or the place.]

Patrick - Bethesda, Maryland, USA avatar

[mod edit]…So, tell me please – Why did you remove my comment and keep his intact? …

liz avatar

His comment came BEFORE Clive had asked you both to put a sock in it. Yours didn’t. You are keeping the conversation going – please stop it or I’ll have to start unapproving your posts.

Homer Hazel avatar

I have really mixed emotions about this. I want to support a school, but I don’t think Afghanistan values education of young girls or women in general. What is the track record of this organization that has built the school? How likely is this school to be razed by the Taliban?

Patrick - Bethesda, Maryland, USA avatar

Well, Homer, one thing is certain – Obama won’t be concerned if they are razed. As a Congressman, he voted against defeating the Taliban back then. Most of the world was on board back then. But, Obama voted “No”. His track record is terrible. He won’t support these women unless he has something to gain from it. That’s how Liberals and the Democrat Party operates.

Homer Hazel avatar

I understand. I really want to support this school. I agree 100% with your statement about Obama, but I don’t want to get too political here. I dont care it might be a wasted effort, I just don’t want what I consider innocents (the students) to be harmed. I think I should trust the students. If they have the guts to go to school, how can I not support them. I will make a contribution. I am watching Malala Yousafzai on TV right now. They tried to kill her and she did not give up.

Jim Manley avatar

Homer – When people are willing to risk their lives for something in a situation like those girls are in, it’s because they have nothing left to lose.

It’s easy to sit in our overabundance of comfort and tsk-tsk about how crummy our cell phone coverage is, or that the barista messed up the spelling of our name on a foofy over-priced and over-caffeinated brew that’s also clogging our arteries.

Evil is what happens when good men do nothing, so if any of you count yourself among good men, then do something good and support these brave young women until you can feel their pain.

Just Do It. Swoosh.

Stewart Watkiss avatar

It’s a great shame when any child is prevented from going to school. Today that still happens in various places around the world. A report in 2010 showed that almost 70 million children get no education

There are various reasons for this including a lack of schools, children working to support their family, children caring for sick relatives, children unable to travel to school, war and conflict, or through racial or gender discrimination. In some places children may go to school, but are under fear of reprisals from organisations such as the Taliban as highlighted in the awful attack on Malala Yousafzai at the girls school in Mingora, Pakistan

In less developed countries, even when schools are available then they are often poorly funded and so provide a standard of education far below those we are used to.

Unfortunately there is little we can do directly to prevent the atrocities committed by these insurgency groups (there are organisations that help support these people and there is of course political pressure but that is difficult especially from outside countries and is a whole separate can of worms).

Something we can do is to help with the problem of funding and specifically in this case help them to establish a low-cost computer lab to help these girls with their computer skills.

I don’t know the technicalities about the particular area of Afghanistan that this school is located in, but if there is a risk to girls then it highlights how important it is for these girls to have an education for them to they take that risk. These girls should be admired for their bravery. If we can help them in some little way to have a worthwhile education then that is not much to ask.

I am far more concerned about the safety of the girls than I am about any money that is raised. I hope that they are able to have a safe and productive education and that in a small way it can help towards improving the country for the benefit of future generations.

The campaign has done really well in just a few days so looks like it’s going to be well on target to meeting it’s aim.

tim avatar

The latest Comm.ACM mag has a report using Pi’s as ultra-low-cost computing resources, which is essentially what Will is hoping to do. The article referred to a group that used Pi’s to build low cost, low power usage computers for a school in rural Cameroon, for example.

Educating youngsters around the world, especially making sure young women get to be educated, is the only hope of a world with a future. Since I hope to get to live through quite a bit of that future I wish WIll -and everyone else trying to spread education – the very best.
or Comm.ACM vol.56 no.8 pp22-24.

clive avatar

Please — let’s keep the politics out of what is a positive and empowering project. Any further political, religious or Great Pumpkin comments will be binned. Thanks.

ColinD avatar

Well said!

RMW5 avatar

Nice though it is to have HDMI, I can’t help thinking that these projects would be a lot easier if there was a Pi version with VGA output. It seems to me that the first world is full of unloved 14-15″ VGA screens (4 in this house at the last count) that could be recycled/reused.

liz avatar

The chip doesn’t support VGA – and you’re not going to find a huge number of VGA screens kicking around in Afghanistan. What it *does* support, though, is composite out: i.e. your old CRT TV. You know: the ones you can’t give away and the ones floating around the developing world in huge numbers.

I saw this at the tip last weekend. (And took a picture, because this is a question that comes up occasionally.)


These things are impossible even to give away in the UK (try sticking your old 40″ on Freecycle and see what happens). But they’re ubiquitous, and used ubiquitously in other parts of the world; and our old stock goes to help supply the rest of the world. I’ve seen shops in India and north Africa where these very same old TVs are sold to people: they’re a standard purchase. I’ve seen CRT TVs being used by families in slums in Mumbai, being operated with electricity dangerously diverted from an overhead cable.

I have NEVER seen a VGA monitor in the same situation. We make composite out available because it’s a much more widely used standard than VGA.

RMW5 avatar

Yes, but CRTs consume 100W+ power compared to <50W for an LCD (OK, I those figures are off the top of my head but I think they are about right), and you don't get so many in a container. I see lots of used LCDs because I have done some work for one of the larger distribution channels supplying systems to big corporations hospitals etc. When a user gets a new desktop system every 3-5 years they usually get a new screen to go with the new graphics card, so the old screen comes back to the warehouse with the old system unit. The old system unit is scavenged for memory, bits of gold etc, but who wants a 5 year old slightly grimy 14" TFT, particularly when you can pick up a refurbished but newer and bigger model for about £30? I know where there are rooms full of unused VGA screens.

Stewart Watkiss avatar

If buying a new monitor then monitors with HDMI or DVI are now available for only about £10 more than those without, but those with existing monitors can buy a converter that allows a VGA screen to be used instead.

VGA onboard would increase the cost for everyone, as the Pi is designed for kids bedrooms then the TV interfaces make a lot of sense.

HDMI to VGA convertors are available costing between about £10 and £20. Much cheaper than buying a new monitor. The only thing is that they sometimes need changes to the config.txt file to get them to work properly. There is help on the Wiki and Forums with getting them working.

RMW5 avatar

Actually now you mention it there are a few converter cables on eBay for £3.50+shipping. I only mentioned it because while it makes it is laudable to keep the price as low as possible, that may be a false economy if it means that many users have to buy either more expensive HDMI-equipped screens or buy into largely redundant CRT technology.

liz avatar

Be careful – those converters may well not work. It’s not a passive conversion like DVI>HDMI; a genuine converter will have some active electronic components in there as well, and we see a LOT of things marketed as VGA>HDMI converters which are nothing of the kind. A genuine one will not just be a cable; it’ll have a little box of electronics attached as well.

If you’re buying a VGA>HDMI converter, it’s best to get one from somewhere with customer reviews. I found one on Amazon UK that has a lot of user comments (many saying they bought them for a Pi!) for only £5.74 – I don’t think you’ll find one much cheaper than that, though.

RMW5 avatar

Point taken, although I think the issue is really with VGA devices attached to HDMI TVs. Anyway HDMI>DVI is only £2, plus some of the HDMI/VGA cables do away with the need for a VGA cable, which might help those on a very tight budget ;-)

Steve avatar

Can fully recommend the HDMI > VGA converter recommended by LIZ above, I’ve run day long sessions with a full classroom of Pi’s connected to these without issue. Couple of great benefits of HDMI connectivity (i) Sound (ii) TV remote control feed goes through HDMI connectivity – stitch these together and use RASPBMC and you have an incredible media server at full HD with incredible sound, it’s how I open training sessions to get a real WOW factor from the trainee’s, then I rip it all apart and describe how to get from here to there !

Darren Jones avatar

Thanks for this – I’ve donated; only a small amount but if everyone who thinks it’s a good idea does so then it will be funded in a day by the looks of things. What a great idea, and it’ll be good to follow it as it progresses – all the good things that the Pi is about.

Steve avatar

Great project and great that it’s being driven by the younger generation. Appreciate the idea is cut and hopefully will raise all it’s funds and make the dream come alive, but got to question (i) Why does all the kit have to be new ? I’m sure there’s loads of stuff available in the channel that can be re-used / recycled and is of VERY high quality (ii) Why go down the route of expensive HDMI compatible monitors, why wouldn’t you use the composite connection and legacy TV’s or even TV’s that may have HDMI connectivity ? (iii) I would hope that the project would capitalise on some of the incredible work that has gone before like the KHAN ACADEMY educational content and activities like the BRCK project – The potential for the RASPBERRY PI in developing countries has got to be INCREDIBLE, powered by renewable energy sources – Solar / Wind would be very exciting – Incredibly well done Will on driving this initiative forward, would be very excited to see what you do in the future :) and hope to see you FEATURED by the foundation once your classroom is up and running – will be sharing, as I personally know how hard it is to drive such activities forward – UBUNTU !

liz avatar

Ubuntu dropped support for the Arm 11 long ago; they have not been enthusiastic about starting to support it again, so there’s no Ubuntu for the Pi.

My reading of the choice to use flat, HD monitors is that Will wanted the outfit to be as new, inviting, useable and attractive to the girls as possible. And we absolutely support him in that choice.

Steve avatar

Sorry, I do get confused from time to time with techno wizards when I use the term UBUNTU ! I never mean it to describe the LINUX distro, but the African philosophy of “YOU” succeed / “I” succeed – – namaste :)

liz avatar

Ha! Thanks for that. ;)

Budd MacKenzie avatar

Greetings from the San Francisco bay area,

What Liz wrote and several of the comments “pushed my buttons”. So, I decided to weigh in.

Will came to me with this project several months ago. I had just returned from my 16th trip to Afghanistan. During that trip I discovered that Afghan government schools have computer classes. But, as near as we could determine, none of them have computers.

Education, as I’m certain everyone recognizes, is the solution to almost everything. Computers, computer software and access to the internet
are the most powerful tools in educating students. Students are no longer dependent upon the education of their teachers. The “brain drain” in Afghanistan is real. It is particularly difficult to find educated female teachers and many families will not allow their daughters to be taught by men.

What my 11 years helping Afghan families has taught me is that we can make a difference and we can support those on the frontline struggling for the most basic freedoms, including the right of women to be educated. We needn’t rely nor should we rely on governments to provide all the support.

My friends and neighbors fall into two categories, those in the bleachers and those on the field. I urge everyone to get on the field, somewhere in the world. This has become the most rewarding work I have ever been involved in, by far.

The people to people grassroots model of providing aid is superior to everything else I have seen.

Thank you Liz and everyone else who decided to contribute to Will’s project. Will is one young man who has become a “global citizen” and who decided to become personally involved. He will now experience the joy of making a difference.

Best Regards,

Budd MacKenzie
Founder of Trust in Education

ps If you can get flat screen monitors or computers to Kabul or Northern California, we can get them in classrooms. I am extremely excited by the potential of what Pi has created and what Will is building. I look forward to taking some to Afghanistan on my next trip to Afghanistan later this month.

liz avatar

Hi Budd – very nice to “meet” you! Would you mind dropping me a line at [email protected]? I’ve been discussing with our board whether there’s anything we can do to make your job easier, and it’d be nice to start a correspondence.

Steve avatar

Budd, I stand and fully salute the incredible work that your organisation and Will is undertaking :)

I to, believe that education is incredibly empowering and digital inclusion should be as basic a human right as clean running water and all the other great things that go with developing and growing society and if we can’t come together and look after one another how can we ever reach the stars as an intelligent organisation !

I have personally been helping people in the UK, for many years, via volunteering on digital inclusion activities for the Workers Education Association and I / we are gob smacked by the power of the Raspberry Pi and it’s ability to connect someone quickly and very cost effectively to the digital wealth of the whole of human knowledge ! and it’s ability to help close the digital divide – I personally have deployed courses on the Raspberry Pi via the WEA and in the last few weeks have found out that as an organisation we are supporting learning and personal development in Zambia and as a WEA ambassador I am pushing to develop that relationship further.

I FULLY endorse your bleachers (for non Americans – Onlookers) versus on the field quote and it reminds me of one of the great quotes I came back from a 6 year deployment to the United States with :-

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while DARING GREATLY so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt”

Keep the faith


Budd MacKenzie avatar

Hi Liz and Steve,

I will write Liz and Steve I agree with everything you wrote, applaud the work you have done, and love the quote. Giving is truly its own reward and Givers lead happier lives. I wish I had learned that earlier in life.


Homer Hazel avatar

If you have not yet supported this project om Indiegogo yet, you should rush on over and contribute. Some generous Foundation is matching contributions up to $10,000.00, so you can donate twice as much. I will not name the generous Foundation, but you can find out who it is by reading update 1. I am very proud of them.

Doug avatar

I’d just to like to weigh in with an observation that donating flat screens or CRT’s might seem good, but in the context of a country where the electricity supply is intermittent or non-existent, perhaps a more lateral solution is needed. What I propose is that we need some work to create a hack that will permit digital photo frames or e-readers (both of which may be run on batteries) to be employed a monitors. Yes, the refresh rates may not be ideal and the size is not ideal, but I think that having something that is practical is the first priority.
A hacked e-reader that could still function as an e-reader would be doubly beneficial, as getting files across the world is much simpler than shipping books.
(Just thinking out loud …)
cheers from Australia

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