One of the threads to this blog has been playing about with old machines and getting linux running on them.
This has been an unstructured project of mine (aka buggering about in the garage) to get a feel of what we can actually do to re-use old hardware and make it usable.
Obviously we're never going to get the latest and greatest, but I can assert that for $20 plus a bit of effort you can turn an old ppc imac into something usable.
It's not perfect, but it's uable and better than nothing. Give one to a school in a remote aboriginal community and it would let them email, surf the web and so on. It would enable things. And doing this is cheap enough that it doen't matter if it breaks or gets stolen.
This of course doesn't mean we should go and dump all our old hardware on grateful aboriginal communities. The hardware that's given has got to work, got to be usable, ie have some value to them. And always we have to consider the cost of network infrastructure, and support.
What it does mean is that we can supplement any existing infrastructure cheaply. These machines would mean that people with no or limited access have a bit more access, and the build process is simple enough that communities could both rebuild and configure new machines themselves given some training - the confidence thing.
The same thing goes for people in cities who do not have access to a computer. The software base that comes with these machines is good enough to let them do job applications, apply for social security, health benefits and yet the hardware is cheap enough to be given away (assuming of course they can always get network access at a cost they can afford).
Not difficult, do able and again the building and configuration could be done as part of a community development project, and one that probably gives more satisfaction than making concrete pavers.