Campus Club Bridges the Global Digital Divide
by Melanie Johnson
When he was a high school student in his native Barcelona, Eduard Lucas needed to complete a community service project of some kind for required credits.
Lucas found his cause after one of the founders of LABDOO, a humanitarian social network dedicated to providing developing nations with refurbished laptops and tablets, came to his campus to talk about the program.
Now, the Cal Poly Pomona senior studying mechanical engineering is bringing his desire to help bridge the global digital divide to the university campus. Lucas, who plays on the Bronco men’s soccer team, co-founded CPP LABDOO with soccer teammate Adi Azran, a graduating senior studying business.
“We started CPP LABDOO to reach out to the community and also to create a network between Cal Poly Pomona students who have a shared interest in technology and helping the world,” Lucas says. “If you create a network of students, you can create a really powerful group of people.”
The Irvine-based LABDOO was founded in 2010 by a group of students at UCLA and has spread across the globe. Groups of supporters form what the organization calls hubs to collect and clean used laptops and tablets and organize trips to deliver the items to local schools or other organizations. To reduce the impact on the environment, the computers and electronic devices are delivered in person by those already planning personal or business trips to the various countries, rather than shipping them mail.
Since it launched, LABDOO has tagged more than 12,700 devices and delivered more than 8,300 to 120 countries.
Lucas and Azran formed Cal Poly Pomona’s campus club in the fall with 15 members. The pair first recruited several of their teammates.
“It was kind of easy to get people to start it on our team because when you pitch to them what the club does, everyone is like ‘That’s a cool idea,’” Lucas says. “Everyone I told said ‘Yeah, I have a laptop at home. It is collecting dust.’”
The idea clicked with Azran as soon as he heard it.
“I was in in like two seconds,” he says.
CPP LABDOO collected 12 laptops during fall quarter and hosted a sanitizing marathon to get them cleaned and ready for delivery. The club plans to transport the devices to a school in Tijuana, Mexico.
“There are areas that don’t have access to modern information and modern technology,” Azran says. “Over here, we have access at our fingertips. This is a problem we are trying to solve.”
All the files and data on the donated computers and tablets are erased, and students install free educational software packages designed for children.
The club hopes to go beyond collecting and sanitizing laptops by offering programming workshops and hosting speakers on tech-related topics in the future, Lucas says.
“The great part about LABDOO is that everyone can join,” he says. “You don’t have to be a computer science genius to help out with computers.”