Building a high tech community

UGA grads bring technology to those without Internet access

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Building a high tech community

Photo by: Special

Free IT Athens takes donated computers, refurbishes the hard drives, installs the Linux operating system and sells the machines at a reduced rate. Since 2005, when Semmy Purewal (PhD ’07), Michael Luchtan (BS ’01, AB ’01) and Michael Moore (BS ’04, MS ’06) started Free IT Athens, the organization has distributed more than 1,500 computers. The alumni also work with the Clarke County School District to restore old computers and provide software training classes to students and parents at schools and at public housing complexes around Athens. The idea of bringing technology, especially free technology like Linux, to everyone is what drives the organization. But Brian Pitts (MA ’10), who is on the board of directors for Free IT, says making technology accessible takes more than just $25 computers. He envisions an Athens where everyone who wants a computer and Internet access could have it and could get free IT help—ideally from a computer savvy friend. The organization trains people in the community to run and troubleshoot the systems. Through their effort, the Free IT professionals are building a community of computer-savvy people. “One of the great things about working here is everyone wants to be here. It’s fun,” Purewall says. “And so people come back. It’s more of a community than anything. It’s really nice.”

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To learn how to donate or volunteer, go to http://www.freeitathens.org.