Q&A with the Winners: Edwin Mugume

In this Q&A, Edwin Mugume talks about his team’s solution — “Affordable Internet Access Devices Through E-Waste Recycling” — which won 1st PLACE Community Enablement Concept, in the 2022 Connecting the Unconnected Challenge.

  1. Please summarize your winning solution
Image courtesy Edwin Mugume

Our winning solution focuses on recycling e-waste from desktop and laptop computers for reuse in rural schools to enhance ICT education and access in these underserved settings. One of the main bottlenecks to ICT access in such settings is the lack of affordable devices to access the Internet and do other ICT-based tasks. New computers are often unaffordable to these schools, even where other infrastructure exists such as access to affordable electricity. With the abundant and increasing e-waste in Uganda, recycling them for reuse will contribute to other efforts towards enhanced ICT education. In addition, it also contributes to responsible e-waste management by reducing the bulk of existing e-waste and minimizing the generation of more e-waste. The revised National E-Waste Management Policy for Uganda (2022) puts e-waste recycling as one of the major pillars for e-waste management in Uganda. 

2. What is the most unique/innovative aspect about your approach?

Our approach does not just repair old computers. Our approach involves testing all components to ensure that the finished product can perform for a number of years without breaking down. The boards will be modified where necessary to optimize the power consumed. In addition, we plan to develop new casings for the computers to optimize their size – we will use local materials, including wood, to develop these modified casings. 

Image courtesy Edwin Mugume

3. What did you enjoy most about the CTU Competition and Summit Program?

We enjoyed attending the summit and discussing our idea with the audience. Some of the feedback was very helpful and we were pleased to know that there are other recycling efforts happening in other countries. Another enjoyable part of the competition was the presentation to a select panel of judges. Their feedback was very invaluable and have helped us to further improve our ideas. 

4. What are your plans for executing your concept? 

We have already started on the first stage of implementing the concept. As I write this, we are training a team to carry out the work. However, we will need more resources to meet our costs during this development stage. We need to meet costs related to sourcing for e-waste, setting up a safe lab environment, and safely disposing off the unused e-waste at the government’s e-waste management facility nearby. We are working on partnerships with some government agencies to support our efforts. We also hope to continue to apply for funds from different funding agencies so that we can get the support we need to implement this project. 

Image courtesy Edwin Mugume

5. Have you estimated how many people would be impacted if your solution was implemented?

Given that we are targeting schools in rural and other underserved settings, the impact population is potentially in the millions over the next few years. It should be noted that these very same recycled computers can also be used in hospitals, public offices, homes, etc. However, it would take a massive production scale to recycle computers for this number of people. Within our pilot project, we are working with schools in a rural district in Northern Uganda. This cluster of schools has over 10,000 students altogether.   

6. Anything else you would like to share?

I would like to thank IEEE Future Networks for organizing the competition and giving us a generous prize that we have decided to put towards starting off the implementation of the project.